UK announces bid to cancel Syria’s “abhorrent” membership on UNESCO rights committee


GENEVA, Jan. 6 – UN Watch applauded the UK for announcing today that it will act with other countries to expel Syria from two UNESCO human rights committees, as the government disclosed in an email sent today to the Geneva-based human rights group, which heads a campaign of 60 MPs and rights activists to remove the Assad regime from the global posts (see text of Dec. 15 appeal below).

On November 11, UNESCO’s 58-nation executive board, which includes the UK, US, France, Britain, Spain, Austria, Belgium, Italy and Denmark, ratified the Arab group’s nomination of Syria to two committees dealing with human rights (details below).

However, in an email sent today to UN Watch responding to its December joint appeal, a representative of the Foreign Office stated that the UK “deplores the continuing membership of Syria on this committee and does not believe that Syria’s presence is conducive to the work of the body or UNESCO’s reputation.”

“We have therefore joined with other countries in putting forward an item for the first meeting of the Executive Board at which we will seek to explicitly address Syria’s membership of the body.”

The UK also expressed hope that other members of the executive board will join London in ending what it called “this abhorrent [and] anomalous situation.”

“We congratulate the UK and its allies for doing the right thing,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

“It’s shocking that only two months ago the UN’s leading agency on science, culture and education gave two position of global influence on human rights to a regime that is raping, torturing and killing its own men, women and children.” said Neuer.

“This was an unconscionable decision that must be reversed immediately, and we hope that all 58 countries on the UNESCO board will join the UK in doing do.”


* UNESCO list showing Syria on the two committees

* Membership of 58-member UNESCO executive board which elected Syria


Appeal for UNESCO to Cancel Its
Election of Syria to Human Rights Committees

Launched on Dec. 15, 2011

Shocked that the UNESCO Executive Board, on 11 November 2011, elected the Syrian Arab Republic to two committees dealing with human rights—the Committee on Conventions and Recommendations, which examines communications relating to the exercise of human rights, and the Committee on International Non-Governmental Organizations, which is charged with overseeing the work of civil society and human rights groups within UNESCO;

Having considered the recent findings of United Nations Human Rights Council investigators that the Syrian regime has in the past year committed crimes against humanity, including the murder of 5,000 of its citizens, the torturing of children and rape;

Recalling that earlier this year, after United Nations Watch revealed that Syria had cynically submitted its candidacy for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, a global protest campaign emerged with the support of Human Rights Watch, the Syrian Human Rights Committee, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and numerous other NGOs and UN stakeholders, helping to successfully defeat the candidacy of the Assad regime;

Guided by the principled opposition expressed by the UNESCO Director-General herself, Ms. Irina Bokova, who has stated that she “does not see how the Syria can contribute to the work of the committees”;

Declaring that each day that the Syria continues to sit on the aforementioned UNESCO human rights committees constitutes an affront to the memory of the innocents who continue to be killed by the Assad regime, and casts a shadow upon the reputation of UNESCO, and of the United Nations system as a whole;

We, the undersigned Members of Parliament, human rights organizations, civil society representatives and pro-democracy dissidents and activists, do hereby appeal to the UNESCO Executive Board to urgently remove the Syrian regime from the aforementioned human rights committees, and to publicly apologize to the victims of the Syrian regime for having elected it in the first place.

Angie Bray, Member of British Parliament

Sénateur Jacques Brotchi, French Community Parliament of Belgium

Frieda Brepoels, Belgian Member of European Parliament, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Committee on Human Rights

Irwin Cotler, Member of Canadian Parliament, Liberal Critic for Human Rights, Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Human Rights

Michael Danby, Member of Australian Parliament, Committee on Foreign Affairs

Ana Gomes, Potuguese Member of European Parliament, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Committee on Human Rights

Matteo Mecacci, Member of Italian Parliament, Chairman of Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly

Riccardo Migliori, Member of Italian Parliament, Vice President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly

Karin S. Woldseth, Member of Norwegian Parliament, Committee on Foreign Affairs

Jordi Xuclà i Costa, Member of Spanish Parliament, Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly

Hillel Neuer, Executive Director, UN Watch, Switzerland

Rami Nakhle, Syrian National Council

Lama Atassi, Syrian democracy activist

Ismael Hachem, President, France Syrie Démocratie

Ahed Al Hendi, Syrian dissident,

Yang Jianli, Former prisoner of conscience and survivor of Tiananmen Square massacre, President, Initiatives for China

Dr. Osama Kadi, President, Syrian Centre for Political and Strategic Studies

Robert R. LaGamma, President, Council of the Committee of Democracies

Amina Bouayach, President, Organisation Marocaine des Droits Humains, Morocco

Yang Kuanxing, Chinese writer, original signatory to Charter ’08 manifesto calling for political reform in China, Editor of China E-Weekly

Abdinoor Farey, Executive Director, Somali Youth for Peace and Development, Somalia

Bhawani Shanker Kusum, Executive Director, Gram Bharati Samiti, India

Dr. Harris O. Schoenberg, President, UN Reform Advocates, USA

Okay Machisa, National Director, Zimbabwe Human Rights Association, Zimbabwe

Phil ya Nangoloh, Executive Director, NamRights, Namibia

Nguyên Lê Nhân Quyên, Delegate, Vietnamese League for Human Rights, Switzerland

Catherine Legna, Secrétaire général, Comité international des Juristes pour la défense des victimes de la répression du soulèvement en Iran, France

Peter Hesse, Director, Peter Hesse Foundation, Germany

Francois Ullmann, President, Ingénieurs du Monde, France

John Suarez, International Secretary, Directorio Democratico Cubano

Sylvia G. Iriondo, President, Mothers and Women against Repression / MAR por Cuba

Don Kraus, Chief Executive Officer, Citizens for Global Solutions, USA

Dr Richard Lawson, Founder, Campaign for Global Human Rights Index, UK

Nazanin Afshin-Jam, President, Stop Child Executions, Canada

Hu Ping, Editor in Chief, Beijing Spring

Wang Longmeng, President, Chinese-Tibetan Association France

Christina Fu, President, New Hope Foundation, USA

Duy Hoang, Spokesman, Viet Tan, Vietnam

Jacky Mamou, President, Collectif Urgence Darfour, France

Panayote Dimitras, Spokesperson, Greek Helsinki Monitor, Greece

Dr. Theodor Rathgeber, Forum Human Rights, Germany

Dickson Mugendi David Ntwiga, Executive Director, Solidarity House International, Kenya

Gibreil Hamid , Darfur Peace and Development Centre, President, Switzerland

Alain Jakubowicz, President, Ligue Internationale Contre le Racisme et l’Antisémitisme, France

Sr Catherine Waters, OP, Main Representative to UN, Catholic International Education Office, USA

Simone Abel, Director, René Cassin, United Kingdom

Jean Stoner, SNDdeN, NGO Representative at the United Nations, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, USA

Dr Charles Mwape, President, Christian Coalition, Zambia

David French, former Chief Executive Officer (2003-2009), of Westminster Foundation for Democracy, an agency of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Virginia Swain, Director and CoFounder, Center for Global Community and World Law, USA

Orrvar Dalby, Director International Program Department, Norwegian People’s Aid, Norway

Nirvana González Rosa, General Coordinator, Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Health Network, Chile

Angelamaria Loreto, President, IUS PRIMI VIRI International Association, Italy

Galina Nechitailo, Vice President, Environmental Women’s Assembly, Russia

Ali Egal, Chairman, Fanole Human rights & Development Organization, Somalia/Kenya

Léonie de Picciotto, Representative to the UN Geneva, International Council of Jewish Women, Switzerland

Kyung B. Lee, President, The Council for Human Rights in North Korea, Canada

Sven Thiberg, Architects Designers Planners for Social Responsibility (ARC PEACE), Sweden

Obinna Egbuka, President, Youth Enhancement Organization, Nigeria

UN Watch