Syria set to win seat on UN Human Rights Council

UN Watch, an NGO that monitors the international body’s activity, says despite Assad's crackdown, Syria likely to get spot on council due to system of fixed slates.

July 6, 2012 03:44
2 minute read.
OVERVIEW OF the Human Rights Council at the UNHRC

UNHRC 370. (photo credit: Reuters)

Despite its poor record on human rights, Syria is on course to winning membership on the UN Human Rights Council, UN Watch reported on Thursday.

UN Watch, an NGO that monitors the international body’s activity, cited a draft resolution presented in Geneva in which the US opposed Syria’s candidacy for a Human Rights Council seat in 2014. The resolution, which is also supported by the European Union, said Damascus “fails to meet the standards” for Human Rights Council membership.

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President Bashar Assad’s regime is, however, likely to get a spot on the 47-nation council “due to the prevalent system of fixed slates, whereby regional groups orchestrate uncontested elections, naming only as many candidates as allotted seats,” according to UN Watch.

Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch, reported that as part of the UN’s 53-nation Asian group, Syria’s candidacy would be nearly assured of victory due to the system of fixed slates, whereby regional groups orchestrate uncontested elections.

“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,” Neuer wrote.

Fears that Syria will indeed win – in a 2013 election for a position starting the following year – appear to have mobilized the US and the EU into taking the unprecedented action of asking the council to declare in advance that a candidate country, in this case Syria, be declared inherently disqualified to join its ranks.

In a strongly worded resolution condemning the Syrian government for committing atrocities, slated for a vote on Friday, paragraph 14 “stresses that the current Syrian government’s announced candidacy for the Human Rights Council in 2014 fails to meet the standards for council membership” as set forth in its founding charter.

“Shockingly, the perfectly reasonable attempt to keep Syria away from the world’s highest human rights body was met with strong resistance,” Neuer said.

“Cuba declared itself ‘totally opposed,’ and demanded the paragraph’s deletion, a position quickly echoed by China.”

It was for the General Assembly to decide whom to elect, Havana said.

“We don’t like to speak to country candidacies,” added Egypt.

Brazil argued that the reference to council membership was “outside the scope of the resolution.”

Russia insisted that no action be taken until Syria’s candidacy was formally submitted.

Likewise, India believed the subject was “premature.”

Last November Syria won unanimous election to two human rights committees of UNESCO, the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Despite the suspension of the Assad’s regime from the Arab League, the same nations’ UNESCO ambassadors in Paris refused to allow objections to a country’s human rights record to interfere with their backroom rotation deals, lest one day the precedent be used against them, UN Watch said. They nominated Syria, and it was duly elected.

After UN Watch campaigned against the move, the US and Britain attempted remedial action. Yet despite their efforts, Syria remains a full member of UNESCO’s committee to judge human rights complaints, and of its committee dealing with human rights organizations.

“Unless America’s laudable effort succeeds, Syria may soon win a seat on the world’s highest human rights body as well,” Neuer said.

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