Prague, Czech Republic – The Czech Republic will join the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in replacement of Russia, suspended in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.
“I consider it important for our country to stand up for human rights, and I welcome the opportunity to do so on the international stage,” Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala reacted on Twitter.
The Czech Republic was the only candidate to replace Russia on the 47-member UNHRC and will complete its term until December 2023.
More than 150 countries voted in favour of Prague’s bid in the UN General Assembly, with 23 members abstaining.
“As soon as Thursday, we will join the session to debate the violation of human rights in consequence of the Russian aggression against Ukraine,” Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský said, adding that the Czech Republic will also focus strongly on issues related to media freedom.
“We are engaged in a range of activities to support the free press because I think we can see quite clearly from the situation in Russia and Belarus that journalists are often the first victims of persecution in authoritarian regimes.”
Russia was suspended from the UN council in early April amid growing reports of atrocities and war crimes committed by Russian troops in Ukraine.
On Twitter, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated the Czech Republic “on its election today to fill the vacant Eastern Europe seat” on the Human Rights Council.
“The United States looks forward to working closely with out Czech colleagues as we continue the important work of tackling human rights issues around the world,” he added.
Formed in 2006 and composed of 47 members elected for three years on a regional basis, the Human Rights Council is one of the main UN institutions promoting human rights and democracy around the world. The Czech Republic already served two terms in 2012-2014 and 2019-2021 and was among the council’s inaugural members.
Russia has been suspended from multiple UN bodies and agencies since late February, including the executive boards of UN Women and UNICEF, as well as from the World Tourism Organisation. It was excluded from the Council of Europe in March.