UNHRC to hold special Syria session Friday

By
April 28, 2011 04:36

HRC council members will call on Syrian gov't to meet its responsibility to protect its population, stop attacks.

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Syrian protester against flag

Syrian protester against flag 311 (R). (photo credit:REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed)

The United Nations Human Rights Council plans to hold a special session on Syria this Friday in Geneva to urge its government to stop attacking civilian protesters.

“The international community has been shocked by the killing of hundreds of civilians in connection with peaceful political protests [in Syria] in the past week,” said US Ambassador to the UNHRC, Eileen Donahoe, on Wednesday.

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Her country filed a request for a special session on behalf of 15 other member states, including: Belgium, France, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Korea, Moldova, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Zambia.

“At the special session, we expect Human Rights Council members will call on the government of Syria to meet its responsibility to protect its population and stop these attacks,” Donahoe said in a statement she issued to the press.

It marks the first time that a special session has been held on the human rights situation in Syria, which has submitted a bid to become a UNHRC member. On May 20, the UN General Assembly in New York is expected to hold an election for 15 of the council’s 47-member seats.

On February 25, the UNHRC held a special session on Libya, in which it condemned the human-rights violations. It also urged the General Assembly so suspend Libya council membership.

The Assembly did so on March 1.

The text of the Syria resolution has not been finalized yet. The US would not comment on the substance of the text, or whether it would include a call for the UN General Assembly to reject Syria’s candidacy for the UNHRC.

On Wednesday, an international collation of 17 humanrights groups led by UN Watch, called on the UNHRC to include such a call in its Syria resolution.

Earlier this week the group launched its campaign to bar Syria from the UNHRC.

UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer said, “if the council this week declares President Bashar al-Assad unwelcome as a member, it would sound the death knell for Syria’s cynical candidacy to be elected a global judge of human rights.”

The coalition of human rights groups, he said, has called for leadership on this issue from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, EU foreign minister Catherine Ashton, Ban Ki-moon and UN rights chief Navi Pillay.

Neuer said that his organization condemns a recent statement by Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Zamir Akram, that Syria’s actions do not merit a special session. He threatened that members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference would use the meeting to focus on Israeli actions against the Palestinians.

Diplomats, however, explained that resolutions introduced at a country-specific special session must be focused on the country in question.

But they added, there is nothing in the procedures that would prevent countries which take the floor at the UNHRC from bringing up other issues in their statements.

Friday's Geneva meeting will be the 16th special session held by the Human Rights Council in the last five years.

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