- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2022

House lawmakers are adding to growing calls to remove Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council in response to alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine.

Rep. Jim Himes, Connecticut Democrat, led a bipartisan group of 57 lawmakers in a letter to President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging U.S. officials to send a sharp message to the Kremlin ahead of Thursday’s U.N. General Assembly vote to remove Russia from the international human rights body for its atrocities in Ukraine.

“We urge you and our allies to hold Russia accountable for the war crimes committed in Bucha and in other locations, and removing them from the UN Human Rights Council is a vital first step,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter adds to calls by members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week to remove Russia from the panel.

Sens. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and James Risch of Idaho, the committee’s ranking Republican, spearheaded a letter to U.S. Representative to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield calling on the U.S. to “use its seat” on the U.N. panel to promote “democracy and human rights.”

Evidence of Russian atrocities carried out in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, shocked the world over the weekend in the wake of the withdrawal of Russian forces from the area around Ukraine’s capital.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday in an address to the U.N. Security Council that women and children were murdered with their hands tied behind their backs. Some were shot execution-style in the back of the head, while others had their throats slashed.

He also said Russian tanks drove over civilian cars while people were still inside.

“Russian troops are deliberately destroying Ukrainian cities to ashes with artillery and airstrikes. They are deliberately blocking cities [and] creating mass starvation,” Mr. Zelenskyy said. “They are deliberately shooting columns of civilians on the road who are trying to escape.”

The Biden administration declared last month that Russia‘s invading forces in Ukraine are guilty of war crimes, citing Russia‘s targeting of civilian sites such as apartment buildings, schools and hospitals, many of which had been clearly labeled as non-military locations.

It also cited U.N. figures estimating that at least 2,500 civilians have been killed or wounded in the fighting and said the actual number is “likely higher.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden announced a new round of sanctions against Russia, specifically targeting the adult children of Russian President Vladimir Putin after the Bucha reports.

Mr. Blinken confirmed in March that U.S. officials are “documenting and evaluating” evidence of potential war crimes by Russia to assist international investigations and “hold those responsible accountable.”

On Wednesday, the House passed legislation to probe claims of Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

The bill, which passed on a 418-7 vote, would direct Mr. Biden to report to Congress on government efforts “to collect, analyze, and preserve evidence and information related to war crimes and any other atrocities committed during the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

“We cannot wait for the next atrocity before we act,” said Rep. Michael T. McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Mr. McCaul introduced the legislation with Rep. Gregory Meeks, New York Democrat and the committee’s chairman.

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide