The United Nations General Assembly voted Russia off the UN Human Rights Council on Friday, a stunning rebuke to the country which is increasingly being accused of war crimes over its actions in Syria. The 193-member General Assembly elected 14 members to the 47-nation council, the UN's main body charged with promoting and protecting human rights. Russia, which received 112 votes, lost its regional seat to Hungary, with 144 votes, and Croatia with 114 votes. Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin played down the importance of the loss, saying Croatia and Hungary were too small to be "exposed to the winds of international diplomacy," the AP reports.
The US, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China, Brazil, Rwanda, Hungary, Cuba, South Africa, Japan, Tunisia, and the UK. also won seats on the council. Guatemala was the only country running for a seat beside Russia to not be elected. Human rights groups had called for countries to reject the candidacies of Russia and Saudi Arabia, which has been accused of indiscriminate attacks against civilians in Yemen. Saudi Arabia's election, however, was a foregone conclusion since it was running unopposed for its regional seat. "Next year, UN member states should make sure that all regional groups have real competition so no one is guaranteed victory," a Human Rights Watch spokesman said. (Read more Russia stories.)