Rights group: “Syria’s membership is a lingering stain upon the reputation of the U.N. as a whole.”
Last week’s suspension of Syria from the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation creates a new window of opportunity for a top U.N. human rights committee to cancel its “shameful” November election of the Bashar al-Assad regime, said UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights organization which heads a campaign of 55 parliamentarians, human rights and religious groups calling for Syria’s expulsion.
“Now that both the OIC and the Arab League have suspended Syria, there is no longer any excuse – neither morally or politically – for UNESCO to insist on keeping Bashar al-Assad’s regime on its human rights committee, which is mandated to help victims worldwide. It’s time for UNESCO to stop legitimizing a government that mercilessly murders its own people,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.
“Having Syria as a global judge of human rights is like appointing a pyromaniac to be a firefighter,” said Neuer. “UNESCO is allowing the Assad regime to strut in Paris as a U.N. human rights arbiter — it’s immoral, indefensible and an insult to Syria’s victims.”
After UNESCO elected Syria to its human rights committee in November, UN Watch launched a campaign to reverse the decision, prompting the U.S. and Britain to initiate a March debate at UNESCO.
However, while a resolution was adopted censuring Syria’s violations – a welcome first for UNESCO – the promised call to oust the regime from UNESCO’s human rights panel was excised. U.S. ambassador David Killion urged UNESCO to revisit the decision. The watered-down text included language suggesting UNESCO chief Irina Bokova could raise the issue again.
Earlier this year, UN Watch had received notice from the British Foreign Office that it would seek to cancel Syria’s “abhorrent” membership. In an email to UN Watch, the UK said it “deplores the continuing membership of Syria on this committee and does not believe that Syria’s presence is conducive to the work of the body or UNESCO’s reputation. We have therefore joined with other countries in putting forward an item for the first meeting of the Executive Board at which we will seek to explicitly address Syria’s membership of the body.”
The UK also expressed hope that other members of the executive board will join London in ending what it called “this abhorrent [and] anomalous situation.”
Paris insiders say that UNESCO diplomats from non-democratic regimes are afraid to create a precedent of ousting repressive governments.
“However, now that both the OIC and the Arab League have suspended Syria, we must take advantage of the new political momentum. It’s time for the U.S. and Britain to uphold their pledge and demand Syria’s expulsion,” said Neuer.
“The Assad regime’s ongoing membership calls into question the credibility of UNESCO’s mission to promote human rights, and Syria’s membership is a lingering stain upon the reputation of the UN as a whole. By maintaining Assad in a position of global influence on human rights, UNESCO is sending absolutely the wrong message. It an unconscionable insult to the suffering people of Syria.”
UN Watch is a Geneva-based human rights organization founded in 1993 to monitor UN compliance with the principles of its Charter. It is accredited as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Special Consultative Status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and as an Associate NGO to the UN Department of Public Information (DPI).