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23rd May 2022

Russia booted from Council of Europe in unprecedented step

  • The decision was 'sad' but 'necessary,' said the president of the Council of Europe’s assembly Tiny Kox (Photo: Council of Europe)
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In an unprecedented step, the Council of Europe has expelled Russia from the pan-European human rights body in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

The decision was "sad" but "necessary," Tiny Kox, the president of the Council of Europe's assembly, said Wednesday (16 March). But "I am glad we dared to do so," he said.

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The expulsion brings an end to 26 years of Russian membership in the human rights organisation, which was founded after World War II.

"Through its attitude and actions, the leadership of the Russian Federation poses an open menace to security in Europe," the Council of Europe said in a statement.

"Russia's actions alone have led to this outcome," said Swedish foreign minister Ann Linde. "We sincerely hope that Russia will one day return to the ideals of peace and democracy, and regain its membership."

Latvian foreign affairs minister Edgars Rinkēvičs suggested there was no place in the Council of Europe for Russia under its current leadership. "We will be happy to welcome back democratic and peaceful Russia in the community of nations," he said.

In practice, the expulsion means that the European human rights convention will no longer apply to Russia — and Russian citizens will lose the opportunity to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights over violations by Russian authorities.

Anticipating the expulsion, the Russian government announced Tuesday that it would formally withdraw from the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog.

Russia's representation in the Council of Europe had already been suspended, on 25 February, a day after the Ukraine invasion began.

The 47-nation organisation's assembly said it is considering establishing a special international criminal tribunal for war crimes committed during the war in Ukraine.

UN top court ruling

In a separate development, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Wednesday ordered Russia to suspend military operations in Ukraine immediately.

"The court is profoundly concerned about the use of force by the Russian Federation in Ukraine which raises very serious issues of international law," said presiding judge Joan Donoghue.

The ICJ is the top UN court dealing with disputes between countries — though its rulings are difficult to enforce.

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