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US condemnation of Syria softened to win UN support

 

Syria Protests: UN Rights Session "Harms our Feelings"

 

Islamic states, Russia, China, Cuba, rally for Assad Regime

Geneva, April 28, 2011 UN Watch, the Geneva-based rights group that heads an international coalition opposing Syria's election to the UN Human Rights Council, strongly praised US leadership in initiating tomorrow's urgent session, yet expressed concern that language directly condemning the Assad government, and its bid for a council seat, were watered down today in an apparent attempt to win support from UN member states uncomfortable with the notion of human rights scrutiny. (See summary below of today's UNHRC informal debate on Syria.)  The coalition of 24 human rights groups, MPs and dissidents urged the council today to explicitly reject Syria's candidacy prior to the May 20 vote at the UN General Assembly in New York.

  • Click here for original US draft (condemning violations "by the Syrian government" in Op. Par. 1; and in Op. Par. 7 declaring that "recent human rights violations committed in the Syrian Arab Republic must be considered when they seek membership in the Human Rights Council")
  • Click here for revised US draft (removing above language)

"Earlier action might have prevented the current massacre, but It's better late than never that the 47-nation body, for the first time in its history, will address the long-suffering victims of state-sponsored brutality in Syria," said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer. "Tomorrow's meeting, if it can overcome the sharp resistance of the Islamic states, China, Russia, Cuba, and other Syrian allies, will be an extraordinary and welcome exception to the council norm. As a rule, the council, which includes Saudi Arabia, China, and Cuba as members -- and which elected Libya last year -- has turned a blind eye when regimes shoot their own people, as happened in 2009 when it disregarded massacres by Iran and China, and praised Sri Lanka after it killed 20,000 civilians."

UN Watch urged the US and its co-sponsors to make no further compromises to the text.

A summary of today's UNHRC debate follows below.


###


_______________________

UN Human Rights Council
Summary of April 28, 2011 Informal Discussions on
Tomorrow’s Special Session on Syria

Organizational Session, April 28, 3:00 pm

USA: As everyone knows, conversations have been ongoing for 6 weeks about the potential of a Special Session with various emphases. Facts that transpired in past week galvanized attention of many in international community, and we felt it was necessary to call for a focused Special Session on human rights violations in Syria. We do this in an effort to show that the council can seriously address human rights violations as they occur. We want to do it in a responsible, cooperative and constructive way, with an eye to making a difference on ground, having a preventative effect in Syria and elsewhere. We also want to enhance the credibility of the council.

SYRIA:   We condemn the invitation to hold a Special Session on Syria. The subject matter of targeting developing countries in this council is no longer acceptable or feasible at all. The colonial vision and methodology of hegemony on us are all totally unacceptable. We are independent coutries, sovereign countries, and have our own laws. We respect human rights. We are parties to all conventions and treaties related to humanr rights.

Peaceful demonstration is a right that is respected. However, when matters go out of control and there is interference in peaceful demonstrations by saboteurs that would kill people, that would destroy private and public properties, then all the laws in the whole world, I say, would permit security forces to interfere in order to maintain general safety and security. This is what we’ve witnessed in EU and American cities, as well that claim they respect human rights. We don’t blame these countries because we believe human rights are respected, but the right to peaceful demonstration must be respected and maintained if the demonstration is truly peaceful and void of violence and free of sabotage.

What I heard from the US representative is not true at all. When army and security forces entered into the situation to calm it, after infiltration of saboteurs who killed civilians, this led the return of calm three days ago to Syrian cities. A number of extremist Salafist elements have been arrested. Those have confessed that they were trained in order to implement vandalist operations, and that they received money and arms.

Concerning the proposal made by USA, since yesterday and today we’ve seen a number of texts that are prepared by the delegate of USA. However, all of these texts are not acceptable to us. This council has its basic mandate and its function is to conduct dialogue, cooperation, enhance human rights. We are ready to discuss any text. However, at the outset, we need to read the text. And this text should be free from politicization, void of hegemony, free from offending us, free from harming our feelings.

We would like to convey a message to the vandalist elements and saboteurs that the council does not condemn. All the actions that are performed are in order to enhance security and to implement human rights. We are open-minded to dialogue that is positive, based on mutual respect, and that is free from hegemony and condemnations.

CUBA:  We would like to begin by saying that we do not support holding of Special Session either. We believe it is motivated more politically than for concern of human rights.

RUSSIA: We do not support convening of Special Session either on topical or on country basis on Syria.

 

Informal Consultations on USA Draft Resolution, April 28, 4:00 pm

USA (CHAIR): We heard from the Syrians and have had many consultations. We’ve handed out text that reflects input from many quarters. We made effort to simplify original text.

PAKISTAN FOR THE ORGANIZATION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE: None of our core concerns that existed earlier have been addressed in this text. At this stage I state clearly that as far as the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is concerned, we had core concerns and none of them have been taken on board. We therefore find it difficult to take the text on board.

HUNGARY FOR THE EUROPEAN UNION:  The EU is satisfied and supports the text.

NIGERIA FOR THE AFRICAN GROUP:  My group noticed you have a new draft that tends to take into consideration a number of things provided for you.

RUSSIA: We have seen the latest draft and noted several changes made. We regard those changes as just cosmetic. This document is not balanced and doesn’t reflect the situation on the ground. It has single-faceted interpretation of human rights law and standards, and in some cases contradicts them. This document is a dangerous precedent. It would eventually lead to violation of principles of UN Charter. The  text as it sounds now is clearly rejected by us. 

ZIMBABWE: We urge all parties to consider the concerns being raised by all delegations to end up with a consensual text that is balanced and objective. As the text is now, we have strong objections to its contents.

CHINA: The changes are far from enough to form a balanced text, so at present we are opposed to the text.

CUBA: The text is unbalanced. As it is now, it is not acceptable. We would be ready to help improve the text and make it acceptable to everybody.

USA: Special Sessions are difficult but sometimes warranted. This one is warranted based on facts on the ground. Notwithstanding some have said you don’t agree with the approach being taken, unfortunately in some cases the perspective of the country concerned [Syria] sometimes can’t be reconciled with perspective of other countries. I fear that even though we would all love consensual outcome, it’s not at all likely or realistic, we’re acknowledging that upfront. Based on input we’ve received already, there is fair support for general approach taken in this text. It may not be able to satisfy everyone in this room, but it will satisfy majority of those present and concerned about the situation. 

FRANCE: We strongly support this initiative. This text is adapted to gravity of situation on the ground. We would like in our national capacity to underscore that we support the text as it is and the initiative. 

NIGERIA: When talking about the death of peaceful protestors in Syria, this is very conclusive in effects, we are concluding before investigating. We want this to be reflected in such a way that it’s not conclusive. The reference to access of journalists looks a little judgmental. Allowing foreign journalists is a thing countries themselves are given the right whether or not to accredit them. The reference to creating an independent commission of inquiry — the African Group believes this is only for a conflict situation.  

PAKISTAN:  I won’t make proposals, we’ve already circulated those. They are substantive, put together by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). We request people to support them. 

ALGERIA:  We thank you for the new text. We concur with what’s been said: it’s far from acceptable. We support the OIC and Nigeria. There should be more emphasis on national investigations [instead of international]. 

ARGENTINA: We consider that the Human Rights Council should be able to address all human rights situations without selectivity. We expect feedback from our capital. It’s important to make efforts for consensus, and to involve Syria in dialogue. To further dialogue and bridge differences is positive. We have to take into consideration all proposals. 

USA: As Argentina noted, we would all love consensus, but there is a fundamental tension with concerned countries. I don’t think this radical difference of perspective can be overcome. I believe we can have a rough consensus.


UN Watch is a Geneva-based human rights organization founded in 1993 to monitor UN compliance with the principles of its Charter. It is accredited as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Special Consultative Status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and as an Associate NGO to the UN Department of Public Information.