Issue 287: Tomorrow: Rare UN-Syria Faceoff

US praised for calling UN session on Syria, but concerns over watered-down text

Geneva, April 28 – UN Watch, the Geneva-based rights group that heads an international coalition opposing Syria’s election to the UN Human Rights Council, strongly praised US leadership in initiating tomorrow’s urgent session to establish an inquiry on Syria, but expressed concern that a text condemning the Assad government, and its bid for a council seat, was watered down today in an apparent attempt to win support from UN member states uncomfortable with the notion of human rights scrutiny. Click here for quotes from today’s heated pre-session UN debate on Syria.

The coalition of 24 human rights groups, MPs and dissidents urged the council today to explicitly reject Syria’s candidacy prior to the May 20 vote at the UN General Assembly in New York.

Click here for original US draft directly condemning violations “by the Syrian government” (Op. Par. 1), and declaring that “recent human rights violations committed in the Syrian Arab Republic must be considered when they seek membership in the Human Rights Council” (Op. Par. 7). Then click here for revised US draft removing above language.   READ MORE


United Nations fails to unite on Syria violence

By Pamela Falk

April 28, 2011 – The UN Security Council tried for three days to draft a collective press statement condemning Syria for the attacks against civilians, but a divided Security Council completed consultations on Syria Wednesday, without an agreement. Russia, China and Lebanon, who have criticized the U.S. and NATO-led air campaign in Libya, simply were not on board.

Meanwhile, the Geneva-based human rights organization U.N. Watch, put together a group it calls the “International Coalition to Prevent Syria’s Election to the UNHRC,” and called for International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo — who will report to the U.N. Security Council next week on Libya — to investigate Assad and his closest advisers for war crimes and crimes against humanity. “Choosing Syria to be a global judge of human rights would be like appointing Bernard Madoff to defend victims of financial fraud,” Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch posted on the group’s Facebook page.   READ MORE

UNHRC to debate creation of investigatory c’tee on Syria

April 28, 2011 – Suzanne Nossel, US deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, said the US resolution clearly held the Syrian government accountable for the violence against its own population, but UN Watch warned that a later draft of the document had watered down some of that language.

The new text, the NGO said, failed to condemn the Syrian government. It also did not clearly call on the UN General Assembly to vote against Syria’s bid for a seat on the Human Rights Council when 15 of the 47 council seats are filled on May 20.

The original version of the US resolution condemned the Syrian government for killing and torture hundreds of innocent protesters, while the revised version condemned these actions, but not the Syrian government.

Similarly, the original version said that Syria’s recent human rights violations should be considered at the May 20 membership elections.

The more recent draft, however, merely recalled that a candidate’s contributions to human rights should be taken into account.    READ MORE

UNHRC to hold special Syria session Friday

April 28, 2011 – The UN Human Rights Council plans to hold a special session on Syria this Friday in Geneva to urge its government to stop attacking civilian protesters.

On Wednesday, an international coalition of human rights groups led by UN Watch called on the UNHRC to include such a call in its Syria resolution.

Earlier this week the group launched its campaign to bar Syria from the UNHRC.

UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer said, “if the council declares President Bashar al-Assad unwelcome as a member, it would sound the death knell for Syria’s cynical candidacy to be elected a global judge of human rights.”

Neuer said that his organization condemns a recent statement by Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Zamir Akram, that Syria’s actions do not merit a special session. [The Pakistani diplomat] threatened that members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference would use the meeting to focus on Israeli actions against the Palestinians.  READ MORE

Yesterday’s global coverage of UN Watch’s campaign:

Canada’s National Post, Critics blast UN Rights Council’s two-faced stance on Syria, ‎April 27: Choosing Syria to be a global judge of human rights would be like appointing Bernie Madoff to protect victims of financial fraud,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch in Geneva, referring to the former Wall Street broker convicted of operating a multi-billion-dollar Ponzi scheme. He also warned that the emergency session is not guaranteed to put Syria on the hot seat — recalling that in 2009, the council ended up praising Sri Lanka for its conduct during that country’s civil war, after European countries sought an emergency session to condemn the violence there.     More

Sky News’ “Boulton & Co.” program, April 27:  UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer was interviewed live on Wednesday by Sky News TV political editor Adam Boulton regarding Syria’s bloody crackdown. Neuer described how the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been firing indiscriminately and killing hundreds of peaceful protesters, as well as funeral mourners, people in mosques, and civilians in their homes. Also in the segment was British MP Rory Stewart of the ruling Conservative Party, who agreed that the Assad family had hitherto received favorable treatment in the West that was undeserved.


Deutsche Presse Agentur, Groups protest Syrian bid for UN Human Rights Council seat‎, April 27:   Human rights advocacy groups on Wednesday protested Syria’s intention to run for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council despite its deadly crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. ‘Syria utterly fails to qualify for membership on the council,’ said UN Watch, one of the groups. ‘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.’    More

Brazili’s O Globo newspaper,Ativistas protestam contra candidatura síria a Conselho de Direitos Humanos, April 27: An international coalition of NGOs, however, today asked today the Human Rights Council to withdraw the candidacy of Syria, arguing that one of the criteria to be a member of the Council is to promote and protect human rights. “Syria does not have the qualifications to be a member of the Board,” said a statement from UN Watch, one of the organizations in the coalition. “Under the Assad regime, Syria is a brutal police state that over four decades perpetrated systematic human rights abuses.”   More (in Portuguese)

The Jerusalem Post, Campaign to block Syria’s election to UNHRC underway, April 27: Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based monitoring group, said Syria’s currently unopposed bid for a Human Rights Council seat, “only underscores the pathologies of that body, where abusers like China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia control the ruling faction and routinely shield human rights criminals from accountability, ensuring that selectivity and politicization trump genuine human rights. UN Watch has planned that several human rights groups, together with Syrian dissidents and victims, will appear at UN headquarters on May 19, the eve of the UN General Assembly election, for a press conference to lobby against Syria’s election.


Russia Today (Arabic edition), France and Italy asking EU to examine sanctions against Assad regime, April 27: Human rights organizations launched a campaign headed by UN Watch. The NGO issued a statement saying that “electing Syria as a global judge of human rights is like choosing Bernie Madoff to protect fraud victims.” 
حصة الدول الاسيوية لعضوية مجلس الامم المتحدة لحقوق الانسان، بينما بدأت منظمات حقوق الانسان حملة ضد ذلك برئاسة منظمة “UN Watch” غير الحكومية التي نشرت بيانا موقعا من 50 مجموعة لحقوق الانسان جاء فيه ان “اختيار سورية
More (in Arabic)

Russia’s Interfax news agency, International human rights activists oppose accession of Syria to the UN Human Rights Council, April 27: Human rights organizations have launched a campaign against the election of Syria to the UN Human Rights Council, led by the non-governmental organization UN Watch, says Interfax. UN Watch is going to lead the campaign, featuring human rights groups and Syrian dissidents at a press conference at UN Headquarters on the eve of the UN General Assembly vote, to oppose Syria’s candidacy.   More (in Russian)


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