Suzanne Nossel 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The UN Human Rights Council is set to debate a call for an independent
commission of inquiry into “alleged violations of international human rights
law” in Syria when it convenes for a special session in Geneva on
This is the first time in its five-year history that the council
has debated human rights abuses in Syria.
Rights group: Civilian deaths in Syria rise to 500
“I am hopeful that tomorrow we
will be able to pass a strong resolution that sends a clear message to the
Syrian government,” said Suzanne Nossel, US deputy assistant secretary of state
for the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.
She spoke with The
on the eve of the special session, to underscore its significance
in light of the human rights crisis in Syria, which she said had “captured the
The United States called for the special session and
penned the draft resolution that will be debated and voted upon.
it is important for the international community to come together in a timely way
in response to a grave and worsening situation,” Nossel said.
seen an escalation in violence and the number of killings. We are concerned that
the situation could get worse.”
Nossel said the resolution clearly held
the Syrian government accountable for the violence against its own population,
but UN Watch warned that a later draft of the document had watered down some of
The new text, the NGO said, failed to condemn the Syrian
government. It also did not clearly call on the UN General Assembly to
vote against Syria’s bid for a seat on the Human Rights Council when 15 of the
47 council seats are filled on May 20.
This latest draft was not posted
on the UN website as of press time, but UN Watch said it had a copy of the
draft, and gave it to the Post.
The original version of the US resolution
condemned the Syrian government for killing and torture hundreds of innocent
protesters, while the revised version condemned these actions, but not the
Similarly, the original version said that Syria’s
recent human rights violations should be considered at the May 20 membership
The more recent draft, however, merely recalled that a
candidate’s contributions to human rights should be taken into
Still, in calling for an investigatory committee, the resolution
does provide a mechanism to hold human rights abusers in Syria accountable for
The draft resolution states that the committee, when
possible, will “identify those responsible, to make recommendations, in
particular on accountability measures, all with a view to ensuring that those
individuals responsible are held accountable.” The council’s president is
to appoint this committee, which will submit a report to the council at its 17th
regular session in June, according to the draft resolution.
asks the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to travel to Syria and report
back to the council.
The resolution drew rare praise from UN Watch
executive director Hillel Neuer.
“I commend US leadership which has
resulted in holding Syria accountable for the first time ever at the human
rights council,” he said. “The resolution is a positive, but we are
concerned that the condemnation of the Syrian government was watered down and
that there is no direct rejection of Syria’s membership bid.
there is only a vague reference to the election,” said Neuer.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) criticized the council on Thursday in a
statement. She took issue with Syria’s bid for a seat on the
“Recent atrocities in Syria and Libya have demonstrated just how
broken the UN Human Rights Council is. Libya served as a member of the council
until just recently, and Syria is poised to become a member next month,” said
Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
upcoming special session on Syria, the council will try to fool the world into
believing that it defends human rights. However, the facts that the council only
acts after extensive atrocities have already been committed, and is dominated by
human rights abusers like China, Cuba and Russia, demonstrate what a sham the
organization is,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
“What we need is a body of members
committed to human rights and democracy, which can draw attention to and condemn
human rights violations early and often. We should be spending our time and
effort trying to create such a genuine human rights body. We do not help the
cause of human rights or the victims of abuses by trying to prop up the failed
Human Rights Council.”