Following Libya's suspension from the United Nations Human Rights Council last week due to its "gross and systematic" violations and brutal suppression of human rights, a new contender — with an equally poor record of upholding citizens' rights — is eying the vacant seat.
Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch reported Wednesday that Syria has announced it will compete for a seat in the council during the upcoming elections scheduled to take place on May 20.
UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer criticized the move, calling it "an outrage." Neuer noted that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi "was just ousted by the UN on grounds that a government which brutalizes its own people doesn't belong on the world's highest human rights body.
"Well, the Assad regime runs a notorious police state that denies the Syrian people the right to free speech and freedom of assembly, jails journalists and tortures dissidents. It sponsors some of the world's most vicious terrorist groups and has assassinated numerous journalists and opponents in Lebanon. The UN and the cause of human rights will be severely damaged if Syria's Assad regime wins a seat," he added.
UN Watch was not the only NGO to draw attention to the double standard; last July, The Human Rights Watch organization published a report on the condition of human rights in Damascus 10 years after Assad came into power.
UN Human Rights Council in Geneva (Archive photo: AFP)
Titled "A Wasted Decade," the report stated that Assad did not live up to the promises to broaden the freedoms of the Syrian people.
"Was Assad a true reformer who did not have the capacity early in his reign to take on an entrenched “old guard” that refused any political opening, or was (his) talk of reform a mere opportunistic act to gain popularity and legitimacy that he never intended to translate into real changes?" the author of the report said.
The report also drew criticism on the broad censorship imposed on the freedom of press in Syria, which has extended into poplar social network websites such as Facebook and YouTube.
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