News / Middle East

    UN Human Rights Council Condemns Syria

    Overview of the special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on the situation in Syria in Geneva August 22, 2011.
    Overview of the special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on the situation in Syria in Geneva August 22, 2011.

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    Lisa Schlein

    The U.N. Human Rights Council has overwhelmingly adopted a resolution condemning Syria for grave and systematic human-rights violations.  The resolution also calls for an international investigation into possible crimes against humanity.

    The resolution to condemn Syria has passed by a vote of 33 in favor, four against and nine abstentions.

    Polish representative to the United Nations Cezaru Lusinski introduced the resolution, saying it was a clear response to the ongoing grave and systematic human-rights violations in the Syrian Arab Republic.  

    "The continued violence, of lack of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, it decides to urgently dispatch an independent, international Commission of Inquiry to investigate violations of international human rights law in the Syrian Arab Republic and where possible to identify those responsible with a view of ensuring that perpetrators of violations are held accountable," said Lusinski.  

    The resolution was passed despite the objections of Russia, China, and Cuba.  Russia called it one-sided and politicized.  China said the right way to protect human rights is through respect and dialogue, not through accusations.  The Syrian representative called the resolution political and unbalanced.

    But Amnesty International Representative in Geneva Peter Splinter dismisses these as minority views.  He tells VOA the outcome of the vote shows cross-regional support for the resolution.  He notes even the four Arab members of the Council voted to condemn Syria's actions.

    "In this year of the Arab Spring, there are many things that are surprising.  But, I suspect, Syria is their neighboring country, they must be very concerned, when large numbers - we are talking over 2,000 people -  are killed by their own government, that must be a concern for any neighboring government," said Splinter.  

    The resolution strongly condemns arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the killing and persecution of protesters and human-rights defenders in Syria.   It accuses Syria of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and ill treatment of detainees, including children.  It calls for the Syrian authorities to immediately put an end to all human-rights violations.

    Splinter says the resolution sends a clear message from the International community that the Syrian government cannot get away with such behavior.  

    "The Commission of Inquiry, when it reports, that will be an important accountability tool," added Splinter.  "That will be something that the U.N. system and we hope eventually the International Criminal Court will be able to use to hold accountable the Syrian officials who are responsible for giving the orders that are leading to the large numbers of killings of Syrians."

    Splinter agrees the U.N. Human Rights Council has no stick with which to force Syria to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry or to stop the killings and persecution of its own people.  But he says the moral voice of the Council carries weight, which commands respect and often leads to an improvement in human rights.

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