Urgent Debate on Syria at the Human Rights Council

Today, the UN Human Rights Council met to discuss the recent atrocities in Syria. The “Urgent debate on Human Rights in the Syrian Arab Republic” stood out as one of the first times that Hezbollah was condemned for the bloodshed in Syria. In fact, the United States specifically condemned Hezbollah’s role in the massacre, while Australia expressed concern for Hezbollah’s recent involvement, and Canada stated that Hezbollah plays a destructive role in a campaign of violence. Overwhelmingly, many states, including the European Union urged the Security Council to refer the case to the International Criminal Court, while virtually all states called for a political, rather than military, solution.
However, not all countries were so adamant about attributing Syria’s ongoing violence to Hezbollah, or the Assad regime. Syria itself resorted to finger pointing and denial when attempting to shift the blame away from themselves, while Russia, Cuba, Ecuador, China, Iran, and North Korea, among others, denounced the ongoing debate.
Syria was given the opportunity to react to the allegations at the beginning of the debate. There, they condemned the “irresponsible behavior on part of the office of the High Commissioner,” and later stated “Qatar spent three billion dollars on War in Syria,” claiming that the money was used to recruit Jihadists from more that 40 million countries, trained under “Turkish and Israeli supervision.” They concluded by deeming the conditions in Syria “but crocodile tears.”
Russia spoke first, representing Algeria, Cuba, China, India, Burma, and Venezuela, all of whom later had the opportunity to contribute their disapproving statements. Russia opened by questioning the relevance and urgency of the debate.

Some of the statements included:
Russia: The resolution clearly favors one side, and ignores the rebel’s “bloody crimes, including cannibalism.” The draft resolution has a hidden agenda, only concealed behind concern of Human Rights. This is a threat to Syria and other areas, and the Persian Gulf.
• Ecuador mentioned the “politicization of the Human Rights Council,” stating that they were “worried about a double standard [where the] HRC is being used to position the political agendas of certain countries.”
• Cuba called the debate a “selective hijacking of the situation” to suit political interests.
• India: “Statements by the High Commissioner acknowledge that violations have been committed by both sides [but the] Resolution does not reflect these conclusions.”
• Venezuela analogized the situation to Libya, rendering both a “clear violation of the UN charter.”

At the end of the debate, the resolution was adopted by vote, called by the delegation of Venezuela.
The vote count was 36 in favor, 1 against (Venezuela) and 8 abstentions (Angola, Congo, Ethiopia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Uganda) while 2 were absent (Kazakhstan and Kenya).

France urged the integrity of all parties by calling the UN Human Rights Council the “moral compass of humanity.” While the council made strides to morality by holding the debate, the position of some countries show that politics and alliances will halt the Human Rights Council from ever being a truly moral expression of humanity.

Reporting by Kayla Green

UN Watch