Groups protest Syrian bid for UN Human Rights Council seat

Groups protest Syrian bid for UN Human Rights Council seat

Human rights advocacy groups on Wednesday protested Syria's intention to run for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council despite its deadly crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, dpa reported.

Syria has submitted its candidacy for the elections on May 20 in the UN General Assembly in New York to fill 15 seats on the 47-member council in Geneva. Syria apparently will run uncontested as a member on the Asian slate.

An international coalition of non-governmental organizations based in Geneva has asked the Human Rights Council to remove Syria from the list of candidates. The annual vote in the 192-nation General Assembly is to replace countries whose terms expire in May.

The UN Security Council planned to meet later Wednesday in New York to discuss the violence in Syria, as international pressure mounted to prevent further use of deadly force against peaceful protesters.

The Human Rights Council is scheduled to hold a special session to discuss Syria on Friday, which is expected to decide on an investigation of the civilian deaths in that country. The advocacy groups said it would be an opportunity for the council to discuss Syria's candidacy, prior to the vote in New York.

The activists said Syria has failed the criteria demanded by the UN to become a Human Rights Council member. Those criteria call for countries to promote and protect human rights and fulfil the obligation "to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights."

"Syria utterly fails to qualify for membership on the council," said UN Watch, one of the groups. "The claims made by Syria in its candidacy pledge are utterly false. Syria under the Assad regime is a brutal police state that over four decades has perpetrated gross and systematic abuses of basic human rights against the citizens of Syria, while sponsoring terrorism abroad."

The groups cited human rights activists in Syria as saying that security forces have committed atrocities against protesters in recent weeks, leaving hundreds dead and thousands injured.

Election rules for the Human Rights Council in Geneva call for regional countries to agree on the candidates before submitting their candidates. The Asian group, under Jordan's chairmanship, this year has to fill four outgoing countries, and one of the candidates is Syria.

Pressure by advocacy groups last year resulted in Iran withdrawing from running for the rights council.

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