GENEVA, May 9 — UN Watch hailed the breaking news that Syria is expected to drop its bid, but expressed concern that it might be replaced by Kuwait — “far better than Syria, but another non-democracy nevertheless” — and urged against giving the Assad regime a consolation prize akin to Iran’s receipt of a seat on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, in exchange for dropping its 2010 bid for a council seat.
The Geneva-based human rights group was the first to sound the alarm over Syria’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, and heads a global coalition of human rights groups and dissidents seeking to block Damascus. See details at unwatch.org/stopsyria.
“The defeat of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s cynical candidacy is a welcome message to his brutalized population that the world is repulsed by the regime’s ongoing massacres,” 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. And now it would be squandering a golden opportunity if Asia’s replacement for Syria will be yet another Middle East regime that fails to meet the election criteria, which require a genuine record of promoting and protecting human rights.”
According to the State Department, Kuwaitis are subjected to “limited freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion” and women are denied equal rights. Freedom House ranks it as only “partly free.”
Among the UN’s Asian Group ranked as “Free” democracies by Freedom House, India and Indonesia are already candidates for Asia, and Japan and South Korea are outgoing council members. According to Neuer, that still leaves the “preferable options” of Cyprus or Mongolia. Moreover, he said diplomats should not dismiss the Free-ranked pacific states of Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu amd Vanuatu. In a letter to UN ambassadors sent yesterday (see below), Neuer said small states could assume member duties if others provided support.
The UN Watch campaign against Syria’s bid is supported by more than 25 human rights groups and dissidents, and was 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.
Yesterday’s letter by UN Watch 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
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.
Hillel C. Neuer
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