International Coalition to Prevent Syria’s Election to the UNHRC
• Appeal by Human Rights Groups and Legislators
• Governments Supporting Campaign to Defeat Syrian Bid — Statements by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the European Union, French Human Rights Ambassador Francois Zimeray, Hungary, UK, Japan, Norway, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Slovakia
• About the Election on May 20, 2011
• Election Criteria
• Election Procedure
• Syria’s Human Rights Abuses Disqualify Its Bid
• Text of UN Human Rights Council Resolution A/HRC/RES/S-16/1 condemning Syrian violations — (“Unequivocally condemns the use of lethal violence against peaceful protestors by the Syrian authorities”; expressing “grave concern with respect to alleged deliberate killings, arrests, and instances of torture of peaceful protestors by the Syrian authorities grave concern”; dispatches investigative mission; and more.)
|Appeal by Human Rights Groups and Legislators
In advance of the May 20, 2011 election of new members to the UN Human Rights Council, the undersigned human rights groups, non-governmental organizations, and legislators are urging UN member states to take all necessary action to defeat Syria’s candidacy. We urge the UN’s Asian Group to rescind its endorsement of Syria’s bid. The International Coalition is also urging action from the International Criminal Court and other UN and international bodies to stop Syria from massacring its own people. Click here for full appeal, submitted and published as official Written Statement to the UN Human Rights Council, Document A/HRC/S-16/NGO/2.
Hillel C. Neuer, UN Watch, Switzerland
“The findings of this Special Session further reinforce the crucial need for Council members to reject Syria’s hypocritical candidacy for membership on the Human Rights Council. No country engaged in such horrific and ongoing human rights abuses should be considered for membership on this important body.” — U.S. Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton, April 29, 2011
“While the Syrian government responds to peaceful protests with lethal force, it is lobbying to become a member of this body. Governments that turn guns on their own people have no place in this chamber. Governments engaged in such egregious and ongoing human rights abuses are not qualified to be members of the Human Rights Council. The United States is strongly opposed to Syrian membership and we encourage other members to oppose their candidacy.” — U.S. Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, addressing UNHRC Special Session on Syria, April 29, 2011
“Syria is a candidate for membership in the Council. In this context, we would like to recall that, according to resolution 60/251, members of the Council should abide by the highest human rights standards.” — Hungarian Ambassador András Dékány on behalf of the EUROPEAN UNION, addressing UNHRC Special Session on Syria, April 29, 2011
“I have the honor to make this general comment on behalf of member states of the EU who are members of the Human Rights Council… We would like to reiterate that according to the resolution 60/251, members of the Council should abide by the highest human rights standards, and this important notion should have been reflected in the adopted resolution. We feel it is particularly important given the violations of human rights which have taken place in Syria in recent weeks. We supported this resolution on this understanding and the resolution has the support of the EU as a whole.” — Hungarian Ambassador András Dékány on behalf of the EUROPEAN UNION, General Comment of the EU after adoption of the resolution, addressing UNHRC Special Session on Syria, April 29, 2011
“Syria is hoping next month to be elected to join the Human Rights Council, a body whose members pledge to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights. Given the continued violent crackdown on protesters, the restrictions on freedom of association and expression, arbitrary detention and mistreatment in custody as well as a failure to address these issues, this is a pledge which the United Kingdom would find incredible in the case of Syria.” — Amb. Peter Gooderham, UNITED KINGDOM, addressing UNHRC Special Session on Syria, April 29, 2011
“We are fighting a battle, we are engaged in a combat [to stop Syria]… We believe that if Syria was elected, this institution’s image would be tarnished. The French diplomatic network has been mobilized to see that either Syria withdraws its candidacy, or we make sure the candidacy fails.. There are several of us leading the combat. The election of Syria to the Human Rights Council would be an offence against this institution and its aims — an offence against the idea we have of the United Nations and human rights.” — FRANCE, Human Rights Ambassador Francois Zimeray, April 28, 2001, interview with AFP.
“In the current context, the candidacy of Syria to the Human Rights Council is particularly inappropriate. The current attitude of Syrian authorities is something that goes against the eligibility criteria contained in resolution 60/251 of the General Assembly of the United Nations. We call upon Syria to withdraw its candidacy.” — Amb. Jean-Baptiste Mattei, FRANCE, addressing UNHRC Special Session on Syria, April 29, 2011
“All member states should recall the General Assembly resolution 60/251 states that when electing members of the Council, member states shall take into account the contribution of candidates for membership to the Council to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto.” — Mr. Kenichi Suganuma, JAPAN, addressing UNHRC Special Session on Syria, April 29, 2011
“In the resolution establishing the Human Rights Council, there is the requirement that members shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights. Developments in Syria stand in stark contrast to this important requirement, and are not compatible with Syria’s bid for membership to this Council.” — Mr. Geir Sjøberg, NORWAY, addressing UNHRC Special Session on Syria, April 29, 2011
“Since General Assembly resolution 60/251 provides for the members of the Human Rights Council to respect the most strict norms in the area of human rights, Belgium urges Syria to withdraw its candidacy to become member. — Mr. François Roux, BELGIUM, addressing UNHRC Special Session on Syria, April 29, 2011
“Syria is a candidate for membership at the Human Rights Council, but members of the Human Rights Council are supposed to abide by the highest human rights standards. Syria is currently failing in this regard and we cannot conceive of Syria as a member of this Council under the current circumstances. — Amb. Boudewijn J. Van Eenennaam, NETHERLANDS, addressing UNHRC Special Session on Syria, April 29, 2011
“The situation in Syria coincides with Syria’s candidacy to this Council. Australia strongly believes that under no circumstances should Syria be represented on the Council. Syria’s membership of the Council would be an affront to the people of Syria. It would contravene the spirit of UN General Assembly resolution 60/251 which established the Council, and would undermine the credibility of the international community’s commitment to promote and protect human rights. Australia calls for the immediate withdrawal of Syria’s candidacy and, should this not occur, for UN member states not to support Syria’s candidacy. — Amb. Peter Woolcott, AUSTRALIA, addressing UNHRC Special Session on Syria, April 29, 2011
“The human rights violations that are being committed against the people of Syria must be considered as Syria seeks membership to this Council. Canada is strongly opposed to Syrian membership on the Council and encourages other delegations to also oppose Syria’s candidacy. — Amb. Marius Grinius, CANADA, addressing UNHRC Special Session on Syria, April 29, 2011
“In light of the forthcoming elections for membership of the Council, we recall that members must uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights. — Ms. Wendy Hinton, NEW ZEALAND, addressing UNHRC Special Session on Syria, April 29, 2011
“We would like to underline the reference to resolution 60/251 and stress that it is the responsibility of states to elect only candidates that are best qualified to fulfill the mandate of promoting and protecting human rights. — Mr. Steffen Smidt, DENMARK, addressing UNHRC Special Session on Syria, April 29, 2011
“The Arab Republic of Syria has presented its candidature to become a member of the Human Rights Council. However, the credibility of this Council would be damaged if the Arab Republic of Syria were to be elected a member of the Council. — Mr. Jan Knutsson, SWEDEN, addressing UNHRC Special Session on Syria, April 29, 2011
“The brutal oppression has shown that Syria is not at all living up to the standards of this Council to promote and protect human rights, as it is the obligation of every candidate to this Council.” — Mr. Konrad Scharinger, GERMANY, addressing UNHRC Special Session on Syria, April 29, 2011
“In the present circumstances, it would be wise for Syria to delay its candidature to the Council.” — Amb. Laura Mirachian, ITALY, addressing UNHRC Special Session on Syria, April 29, 2011
“Just few days ahead of the UN General Assembly’s new HRC members elections, Syria’s human rights record, especially in light of the recent events vis-à-vis its HRC candidature, clearly fails to meet the membership criteria stipulated in the 60/251 resolution establishing this very august body, and, in this regard, we appeal to member states to grant this fact due consideration while casting their votes on 20 May in New York. — Amb. Branislav Lysak, SLOVAKIA, addressing UNHRC Special Session on Syria, April 29, 2011
About the Election
On May 20, 2011, the UN General Assembly will hold a vote to fill 15 of the 47 UN Human Rights Council seats, in the annual rotation of membership. Syria has submitted its candidacy, and is running on an uncontested, “closed list”—one of four Asian Group candidates for the same amount of available seats—and claims to have received the official endorsement of the Asian Group. For the reasons set forth below, the International Coalition urges UN stakeholders to fulfill their international obligations and take all necessary action to defeat Syria’s candidacy.
According to UNGA Resolution 60/251, which established the UN Human Rights Council in 2006, General Assembly members are obliged to elect states to the Council by “tak[ing] into account the candidates’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto.” The resolution also provides that consideration ought to be given to whether the candidate can meet the obligations of Council membership, including the obligation “to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.”
Human Rights Abuses
Under the above criteria, Syria utterly fails to qualify for membership on the Council. The claims made by Syria in its candidacy pledge are utterly false. Syria under the Assad regime is a brutal police state that over four decades has perpetrated gross and systematic abuses of basic human rights against the citizens of Syria, while sponsoring terrorism abroad.
In recent weeks, as diverse citizens in cities across Syria peacefully called for freedom, the Assad regime has responded with premeditated massacres against its own people, making indiscriminate use of live ammunition against defenseless citizens, including men, women and children.
Human rights activists in Syria report mass atrocities by government forces, with hundreds killed and thousands injured. For example, on March 23, security forces killed six protesters in the Omari mosque in Daraa, and opened fire on hundreds of youths. On April 17, security forces opened fire on mourners at a funeral, killing 17. On April 26, thousands of Syrian soldiers backed by tanks and snipers poured into the city of Daraa before dawn, opening fire indiscriminately on civilians, leaving many dead and injured. Thousands have been detained by the Assad regime across the country, subjected to brutal arrest and torture.
Accordingly, the government of Syria is committing gross and systematic violations of the right to life as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and trampling freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity
The government of Syria is committing crimes against humanity, as defined by the Explanatory Memorandum to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The Syrian government’s mass killing of innocent civilians amounts to particularly odious offences which constitute a serious attack on human dignity. As confirmed by numerous testimonies collected by human rights organizations and news agencies, the Assad regime’s crimes against the civilian population are not isolated or sporadic events. Rather, these constitute a widespread and systematic policy and practice of atrocities, intentionally committed, including murder, political persecution and other inhumane acts which reach the threshold of crimes against humanity. These atrocities constitute gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law on a countrywide scale amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Action to Protect Syria’s Victims
Accordingly, in addition to defeating Syria’s candidacy for the UNHRC, we urge all UN stakeholders, including member states and high UN officials, to exercise their responsibility to protect the people of Syria from what are preventable crimes. We urge the use of all available measures and levers to end atrocities throughout the country. Specifically, we request the following:
- The UN Security Council should meet urgently to put an end to Syria’s assault on the civilian population.
- The UN Human Rights Council should use this Friday’s Special Session on Syria to give voice to the thousands of bloodied Syrian victims; launch an international investigation to hold accountable President Assad, other high officials of the regime and military officers who may be guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity; and condemn Syria’s outrageuous candidacy for council membership.
- The UN General Assembly should respond to Syria’s false declaration to it about respecting human rights (A/65/784, dated 1 March 2011) with a resolution stating the truth about the regime’s atrocities.
- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton should exercise global leadership in initiating the above actions.
- UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay should carefully consider whether the Syrian regime has exploited their recent dialogue with her in order to buy time and soften criticism; strongly condemn Syria’s gross and systematic violations of human rights; take the lead by publicly pressuring the Human Rights Council Special Session to avoid repeating the May 2009 debacle where the council praised Sri Lanka instead of condemning its atrocities; and request that the human rights situation in Syria remain on the council’s agenda until the regime is replaced by a democratically elected government that respects universal human rights.
- The UN’s Asian Group, including the Jordanian chair, should rescind its endorsement of Syria’s UNHRC candidacy and apologize to the regime’s thousands of victims.
- Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey should take action on behalf of the Government of Switzerland to convene a conference of the high contracting parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention on measures to enforce the Convention to protect Syria’s civilian population from assault by the country’s military forces.
- International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocamposhould be prepared to investigate Syrian President Assad, other high regime officials and military officers for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
- Countries whose courts exercise universal jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity should arrest and prosecute Syrian President Assad, other high regime officials and military officers for their atrocities against the Syrian people.