Rights groups urge India, Japan, S. Korea not to replace Syria with “another non-democracy”

GENEVA, May 9 — UN Watch, a Geneva-based rights group that was the first to sound the alarm over Syria’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, sent letters today to the UN ambassadors of India, Japan and South Korea, urging them to replace their endorsement of the Assad regime with an Asian state that respects human rights. (See full text below.)

“We welcome reports that Bashar Al-Assad’s candidacy for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council is now doomed,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch. “The Asian states at the UN never should have endorsed the brutal Syrian regime in the first place. What we’re saying now is that it would be squandering a golden opportunity if Asia’s replacement for Syria will be another Middle East regime that fails to meet the election criteria requiring a genuine record of promoting and protecting human rights.”

UN Watch’s letter included an appeal against Syria’s bid signed by more then 25 human rights groups and dissidents, a text recently accepted for publication by the UN General Assembly as an official UN document.

The election of 15 new council members is scheduled for May 20 at the UN General Assembly in New York. On the day prior, UN Watch, Syrian victims and other human rights groups will hold a press conference at UN headquarters in New York. For latest information on the global campaign to bar Syria from the UNHRC, including details on the UN elections, see unwatch.org/stopsyria.

Today’s letter follows below.

May 9, 2011 Letter to UN Ambassadors
of Japan, India and South Korea

Sent to Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, Japanese Ambassador Tsuneo Nishida, and Republic of Korea Ambassador Park In-kook.

May 9, 2011

Excellency,

We urge your country, as the one the major democracies in the UN’s Asian Group, to lead the effort within your regional group to (a) defeat Syria’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council; and (b) ensure that the replacement candidate will be a country with a record of protecting human rights, as required by UNGA Resolution 60/251.

We call your attention to the unequivocal condemnation of Syria’s gross abuses by the Human Rights Council itself, in its Special Session of April 29. We also enclose the civil society appeal by the International Coalition to Prevent Syria’s Election to the UNHRC, a cross-regional group comprised of UN Watch, Franciscans International, Gram Bharati Samiti of India, the Syrian American Council, Greek Helsinki Monitor and more than 15 other human rights groups from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. The appeal has been published by the UN General Assembly as document A/HRC/S-16/NGO/2. The updated list of signatories may be found at unwatch.org/StopSyria.

Moreover, we urge you to ensure that the Asian Group replaces Syria not with another non-democracy, but rather one of the many eligible Asian states qualifying as Free democracies under the 2011 survey by Freedom House: Cyprus, Mongolia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu or Vanuatu. Small states without missions in Geneva will obviously require support. In this regard, we note that Switzerland pledged to provide such support, a commitment made in 2006 when the UN was deciding whether to place the Council in New York or Geneva. Additional countries should pledge to assist as well. We in civil society stand ready to do our part.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest esteem and consideration.

Sincerely,

Hillel C. Neuer
Executive Director

International Coalition to Prevent Syria’s Election to the UNHRC

Dedicated web page at unwatch.org/StopSyria

• 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

UN Watch is a Geneva-based human rights organization founded in 1993 to monitor UN compliance with the principles of its Charter. It is accredited as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Special Consultative Status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and as an Associate NGO to the UN Department of Public Information.