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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.