GENEVA, - The Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch welcomed today’s strong censure of Syria by the UN Human Rights Council but expressed concern over the removal by the U.S. of its own proposed language rejecting Assad’s declared 2013 bid for a seat the following year on the 47-nation body.
“We had urged the U.S. and the EU to resist the pressure by Syria’s allies and not to water down a council statement rejecting the candidacy of Syria’s Assad, who is a tyrant and mass murderer,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.
“While today’s resolution was strong overall, the council squandered a golden opportunity to set a new tone regarding its composition, which remains a serious issue given its election of Libya’s Gaddafi only two years ago, the membership today of Russia, China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia, and the imminent election of Pakistan and Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela.”
As reported exclusively by UN Watch, the U.S. on Wednesday had circulated a draft resolution which “stress[ed] that the current Syrian government’s announced candidacy for the Human Rights Council in 2014 fails to meet the standards for Council membership.” (See U.S. July 4th draft, par. 14.)
However, during off-camera sessions attended by UN Watch, delegates from Russia, China, Cuba, Egypt and Brazil opposed any mention of Syria’s candidacy.
“The result,” said Neuer, “is today’s watered-down paragraph [see par. 19] that makes only a general reference to standards for council membership, but which drops the originally proposed rejection of Assad’s preposterous bid to become a world arbiter of human rights.”
The idea to opt for an abstract reference was raised by Brazil during the Wednesday morning session, reported UN Watch, and supported by Russia.
Another indirect reference to Assad’s candidacy came in comments today to the council plenary by U.S. Ambassador Eileen Donahoe. Noting that Syria’s actions contradicted the principles of the Human Rights Council, she said that “no state that engages in such actions should serve on this council.”
Human rights activists, however, said they would have preferred the direct language. “Should the Assad regime remain in power and continue with its candidacy for a council seat next year—a bid originally announced in May 2011 when it traded places with Kuwait—regrettably we will be in a weaker position to stop it given the council’s decision to drop the express rejection of Syria’s credentials.”
“The tragic reality at the U.N. is that even though Syria has been roundly condemned, UNESCO in November elected Syria to two human rights committees, and so we cannot exclude the possibility that the Assad regime will be elected next year to the U.N.‘s top rights body,” said Neuer.
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