BRUSSELS — The Council of Europe, the continent’s main institution governing human rights, has suspended Russia from participation because its invasion of Ukraine “goes against everything we stand for and is a violation of our statute and of the European Convention on Human Rights,’’ its secretary general, Marija Pejcinovic Buric, said in an interview Thursday.
“I know what war is,” said Ms. Buric, a former foreign minister of Croatia who is originally from Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“I stand in full solidarity with Ukraine and its people, and I really hope that the Russian Federation will reverse this action and use dialogue and diplomacy to address the issues they have,” she said, calling the war “a dark hour for Europe and everything it stands for.”
The Council, which was established in 1949 after World War II, now has 47 member states across Europe, dedicated to upholding democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and is separate from the European Union. It has a large parliamentary assembly and governs the European Court of Human Rights, which decides cases brought under the convention from any member country.
The decision to suspend Russia leaves Moscow still accountable under the human-rights convention and the court. A Russian judge remains on the court, which can still accept complaints from Russian citizens.
“More than 146 million Russian citizens are still under the protection of the court,’’ Ms. Buric said.
But the suspension means that Russian officials — including the foreign minister, ambassador, 18 legislators and 18 governors and mayors — can no longer participate in the ministerial council that runs the organization or in the parliamentary assembly. Russia is still obligated to pay its share of the annual budget, the equivalent of about $37.6 million dollars, which is due in principle by the end of June, Ms. Buric said.
Aleksandr V. Grushko, who was Russia’s representative to NATO from 2012 to 2018, said that the suspension was “a self-inflicted political wound on the Council of Europe.’’
But Ms. Buric rejected his view, calling it “appalling,” adding that “what really worries us are the wounds being inflicted on thousands of innocent Ukrainian citizens.’’
The Council, which is based in Strasbourg, France, has its second-largest office in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital now under attack, with 63 staff. “We are doing all we can to help them escape,” Ms. Buric said.
Russia became a member of the Council in 1996. After its annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Russian delegation in the assembly was deprived of voting rights. Russia responded by boycotting the sessions of the assembly and suspending contributions to the council’s budget. The dispute was resolved in a compromise worked out by Germany and France, and Russia’s rights were restored in 2019 in a deal that infuriated Kyiv.