Syria’s Bid for UN Human Rights Council Said to Be Derailed

Bloomberg story published in San Francisco Chronicle
May 10, 2011

Syria is likely to drop its bid for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council under pressure from nations that condemn its repression of protesters, Egypt’s ambassador to the world body said.

“Kuwait will run now and Syria will run in 2013,” Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz said in an interview. He said Kuwait has agreed to become a candidate for one of four seats on the Geneva-based panel that will go to Asian nations when the UN General Assembly elects 15 new members on May 20.

Abdelaziz said UN envoys have been trying to convince Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari that it would be wise to withdraw rather than face almost certain defeat in the election. Ja’afari is waiting today to hear from his government and Kuwait is waiting to declare its candidacy, Abdelaziz said.

Kuwait is the “best bet” of Arab nations to retain a seat on the Human Rights Council, a greater priority after Libya was suspended from the panel on March 1, Abdelaziz said.

“This is something we have been talking to Bashar about for a week,” he said. “We see this as the most sensible thing to do, and I think Damascus will realize that it is very dangerous to go into the election and suffer defeat.”

In the event Syria doesn’t withdraw, Kuwait won’t publicly seek the Asian seat on the Human Rights Council, Abdelaziz said.

Ja’afari said his government hasn’t decided to pull out of the race, and Kuwait’s mission had no comment.

Syrian Protests

Syrian security forces clamped down today on protesters across greater Damascus and flash-point cities including Daraa, surrounding the areas and carrying out arrests, human rights groups said.

The Syrian uprising drew initial pledges of reform from President Bashar al-Assad, who lifted an emergency law in place since 1963 and appointed a new government. He hasn’t repeated the assurances in recent weeks as the security forces have stepped up their attacks, sending tanks into Daraa and other cities.

The Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch said in statement today that Syria is “expected to drop its bid” for a seat on the council, while also citing the U.S. State Department’s assessment that Kuwaitis have “limited freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association and religion.”

The UN General Assembly, consisting of all 192 UN member governments, will elect the 15 new members to the 47-nation council in a secret ballot. The votes of 97 countries are needed for election to a three-year term.

Syria in January was one of four countries endorsed by Asian nations for four seats that will go to nations from that continent. Kuwait has been scheduled to be a candidate for the council in 2013.

UN Watch