Critics condemn bid by ‘blood-soaked’ Syrian regime to join UN rights panel (NATIONAL POST) Michael Higgins 07/06/12)
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Syria is bidding for a place on the United Nations Human Rights
Council, it was revealed Thursday, despite the UN’s human rights
chief saying only days ago the country should be referred to the
International Criminal Court because of abuses.
More than 15,000 people have been killed in a 16-month crackdown on
protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, but Syria
is almost certain to be elected to the council if it applies because
of the voting rules.
Amnesty International has claimed the government may be guilty of
crimes against humanity and this week Human Right Watch said the
Assad regime was running a string of torture centres around the
country where civilians were beaten and sexually abused.
Even UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said this
week, “In my view, both government forces and armed opponents have
been involved in actions harming civilians,” as she called for the
Syrian situation to be referred to the International Criminal Court.
Despite the condemnation — echoed by many Western countries — a draft
resolution to the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) reveals Syria’s
intention to bid for a seat.
The U.S. and European resolution condemns Syria for its human rights
abuses, extra-judicial killings and atrocities committed by the
government-controlled shabiha militia.
The “Syrian government’s announced candidacy for the Human Rights
Council in 2014 fails to meet the standards for Council membership,”
Russia, China, and Cuba, close allies of Syria, have called for the
paragraph to be deleted, saying the reference was untimely and out of
place, said UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights group.
In a statement, UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said, “We
urge the U.S. and the EU to resist the pressure by Syria’s allies,
and not to water down their proposed council statement opposing the
candidacy of a tyrant and mass murderer.”
In an opinion piece for the National Post online, Mr. Neuer said, “As
part of the UN’s 53-nation Asian group, Syria’s candidacy would be
virtually assured of victory due to the prevalent system of fixed
slates, by which regional groups orchestrate uncontested elections by
naming only as many candidates as allotted seats.
“That’s how non-democracies like China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia
won their current seats, and how Pakistan and Venezuela are about to
do the same.”
Last November, Syria won unanimous election to two human rights
committees of UNESCO, the UN’s Educational, Scientific & Cultural
B’nai Brith Canada, a Jewish advocacy group, condemned the candidacy
of a “blood-soaked regime.”
The group said UNHRC shields and rewards the world’s worst human
rights abusers, while chastizing beacons of democracy and freedom,
such as Canada, the U.S., and Israel.
In a statement, Frank Dimant, head of B’nai Brith Canada, said, “Yet
again the UNHRC has displayed its systematic hypocrisy, as the UN
body, formulated to advance human rights internationally, continues
to chip away at any scrap of legitimacy it holds with its constant,
seemingly institutional defiance of logic.
“Close to 16,000 people have been murdered as the Assad regime clings
to power at any cost, and yet, the Council still allows amongst its
ranks the world’s worst human rights abuser today. If the Council’s
previous actions have not yet proven the biased agenda of the UN
body, Syria’s official candidacy must stand as conclusive evidence.”
(© 2012 National Post, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. 07/06/12)
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