U.S. Seeks Action Against Syria in UN Human Rights Council

The Obama administration is asking the United Nations Human Rights Council to derail Syria’s request for membership in the organization and to condemn the government’s attacks on peaceful protesters.

A special session of the Geneva-based council was scheduled for April 29 after a U.S. request for the meeting received the necessary backing from 15 other members.

“The international community has been shocked by the killing of hundreds of civilians in connection with peaceful political protests in the past week,” Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, the U.S. envoy to the Human Rights Council, said in a statement today.

The latest Syrian crackdown on demonstrations, in the past five days mostly in the southern region of Daraa, has brought the nationwide death toll since mid-March to more than 450, Ammar Qurabi, head of Syria’s National Organization for Human Rights said in a telephone interview today.

The U.S. circulated a draft resolution to the Human Rights Council’s 46 other members that would condemn attacks on protesters and call for Syria’s government to free expression and assembly, halt attempts to block Internet use and other communication networks, and release political prisoners. It would also call for an international inquiry into the violence.

Syria is one of four candidates for four seats on the Human Rights Council that will go to Asian nations when the UN General Assembly votes on May 20 for new members. The so-called clean slate, endorsed in January by the Asian Group of countries, put Syria in a position to win a three-year term.

Alternative Candidates

The U.S. and other Western nations have been seeking alternative Asian candidates and wants the Human Rights Council to say in the draft resolution that UN member nations should consider the recent unrest in Syria when casting their votes.

The UN Security Council has scheduled a meeting for 3 p.m. today in New York to discuss a draft statement by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal condemning government attacks on protesters.

“There are European Union countries that wanted a strong reaction,” France’s Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters today in New York. “Other countries were very much more cautious, saying we have to know better about what is happening on the ground.”

UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe is scheduled to brief the Security Council on the situation.

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