Security Council breaks deadlock, censures Syria

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER, REUTERS
August 3, 2011 20:01

UN condemns human rights violations, "use of force on civilians," calls for "immediate end to violence"; Lebanon disassociates from statement.

3 minute read.



UN security Council

UN security Council 521. (photo credit: Reuters)

After months of deliberation the Security Council on Wednesday condemned Syria for its violent suppression of anti-government protests throughout the country.

The motion was approved by 14 out of the council’s 15 member state after China, Russia, South Africa, India and Brazil dropped their opposition.

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Lebanon, whose government is closely allied to Damascus, could have vetoed the statement but decided to abstain allowing it to pass.

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A Lebanese envoy later said the Western-drafted statement would not help the situation.

The statement, read out to a council meeting by Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, this month's president of the body, "condemns widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities."

Over the past two months the Security Council has been deadlocked over how to react to news of growing violence in Syria. Western countries circulated a proposal censuring the use of force by Damascus to disperse demonstrations but permanent members Russia and China blocked the motion, saying they feared it would be used as a pretext for a military intervention in that country.

News that the government of Bashar Assad had launched an offensive against anti-government protesters in the city of Hama last week killing an unknown number of people estimated in the hundreds consolidated support for the resolution at the Security Council.

Since the start of the unrest in Syria last May Israel has kept quiet on developments in that country. Jewish-American groups, however, have been vocal in their criticism of the government’s treatment of demonstrators.

“I think it’s a very important moral declaration long in coming,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “The people in Syria have been looking to the west and saying ‘your silence is killing us.’”

Hoenlein said the protracted talks at the United Nation’s Security Council over Syria compared with the relative ease with which condemnations of Israel are passed through the General Assembly exposed the hypocrisy of some of the organization’s members. 

“Its members attack Israel but when it came to Syria, where the violations are so blatant, it highlighted the double standard or quadruple standard found in the United Nations,” he said.  “Israel has been accused of being behind the demonstration but it clearly is not. Everything it says will be exploited.”

He said the message that the resolution sent that human rights violations would not be accepted by the international community should be extended to Iran which “provides weapon and manpower to suppress the popular expressions [in Syria].”

The American Jewish Committee on Wednesday issued a statement that it supported the resolution but added more measures including targeting the country's energy sector needed to be taken to stop the violence carried out by the government in Syria.
 
“As the UN Security Council met over the past three days, the Assad regime has significantly increased its violent repression of the Syrian people,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The extent of the carnage wrought by Assad in Hama, Homs, Daraa and other cities over the past four months demands stronger international condemnation and action.” 


The Jewish advocacy group saId Russia, China and others were "complicit in obstructing global efforts to support the courageous Syrian protesters and to convince Assad to stop the ruthless campaign of violence against his own people. The Syrian people deserve more empathy and firmer action by the UN. Regrettably, several of the Security Council members have chosen to ignore their anguish.”


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