UN Watch takes the floor, urges council to atone for past coddling of Syria;
calls on UNESCO to reverse election of Syria to human rights committees

GENEVA, Dec. 2 – UN Watch welcomed today’s strong condemnation of Syria by a UN Human Rights Council emergency session, and its establishment of a special rapporteur to monitor abuses there, followinga global campaign to create the post by a coalition of prominent democracy dissidents and human rights groups led by UN Watch.

The resolution on behalf of Syria’s victims was overwhelmingly adopted by a vote of 37 to 4, with 6 abstentions. Today’s Hall of Shame: China, Cuba, Ecuador and Russia for voting No; and India, Uganda, Philippines, Cameroon, Angola and Bangladesh for abstaining. For a summary of today’s debate, see UN Watch’s Twitter posts here. 

In a related development today, UN Watch took the floor of the council plenary to urge UNESCO to reverse its recent decision to elect Syria to two human rights committees. See full speech below. UN Watch immediately submitted today’s UNHRC resolution to UNESCO, urgently requesting that its Executive Board, which includes the US, the UK, France and several other democracies, take remedial action.

Despite the otherwise strong text, UN Watch expressed regret that it included a provision, drafted during a previous session by Syria and its allies, that paid special deference to Syria’s “territorial integrity” and “political independence” — a clear jab at NATO’s intervention in Libya, and a pre-emptive strike against the principle of the international community’s responsibility to protect civilians under assault.

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UN Watch Statement
United Nations Human Rights Council, 18th Special Session
“The Situation of Human Rights in the Syrian Arab Republic”

2 December 2011

Thank you, Madam President.

UN Watch wishes to thank Poland, the European Union, the United States, and the other co-sponsors, for introducing today’s strong condemnation of Syria for its gross and systematic violations of human rights.

The facts are clear. Syrian forces have committed crimes against humanity, including murder, torture and rape. There are documented cases of injured people who were taken to military hospitals, where they were beaten and tortured during interrogation. Children were also tortured, some to death.

Madam President, the law is also clear: President Bashar al-Assad and his government must be held to account.

It is time for the United Nations to do its part.

First, the Security Council must end its shocking silence on Syria’s atrocities. It must take urgent action to protect the civilian population before thousands more are beaten, tortured and killed.

Second, UNESCO should cancel its recent decision to elect Syria to two separate committees that deal with human rights. Even the head of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, concedes that this is wrong. Her spokesperson told UN Watch as follows: “Given the developments in Syria, the director-general does not see how this country can contribute to the work of the committees.” We agree.

Accordingly, UN Watch will submit today’s resolution to UNESCO’s 58-member Executive Board, and demand that they expel the Assad government from those panels immediately.

Finally, to set an example of accountability, this chamber should acknowledge that its longtime policy, and that of the old Commission, of turning a blind eye to Syria’s gross and systematic violations, was wrong and harmful. So too was its policy of supporting Syria’s cynical and transparent ploy each year to condemn Israel for alleged violations of human rights, which should not be repeated this March.

The combined effect of these policies provided an anti-democratic ruler with impunity, international legitimacy and credibility, only contributing to its current power and capacity for oppression.

Thank you, Madam President.

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