Syrian security forces have shot dead at least 400 civilians in their campaign to crush the country's month-long peaceful pro-democracy revolution, the Syrian human rights organization Sawasiah said on Tuesday.
Separately, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said security police arrested prominent rights campaigner Qassem al-Ghazzawi on Tuesday in his home city of Deir al-Zor in Syria's impoverished east after protests intensified in the region last week.
Meanwhile, Human rights groups and a growing number of governments are working to prevent Syria from being elected to the UN's top human rights body.
Syria's election to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council is all but assured as one of four candidates selected to fill four Asian seats, unless another candidate enters the race or Syria fails to win a majority of votes in the May 20 election in the 192-member General Assembly.
Since the 53-member Asian Group endorsed its slate — which also includes India, Indonesia and the Philippines — for the council in January, rights groups and some governments have engaged in a behind-the-scenes effort to keep Syria off the council.
Those efforts have gathered steam since a crackdown on pro-democracy protests since mid-March has left more than 350 dead and hundreds wounded, diplomats said.
Syrian forces (Photo: MCT)
One diplomat involved in the process, speaking on condition of anonymity because the consultations are private, said he was confident that another country would be found to contest the election but declined to say which countries were being pursued.
Since 2006, rights groups and governments have successfully opposed the election of several countries including Iran, Venezuela, Belarus and Sri Lanka.
The campaign against Syria's nomination on the human rights council also comes as France, Britain, Germany and Portugal are urging the UN Security Council to strongly condemn the violence against peaceful demonstrators in Syria.
The United States is supporting the statement of condemnation, a diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
"The Syrian government's aggressive campaign for the Human Rights Council has not slowed down the killing and torture of large numbers of peaceful protesters by its security forces," Human Rights Watch's UN Director Philippe Bolopion said.
"Syria's candidacy should be an embarrassment to its backers, the Asia Group, and particularly the Arab League, which supported military action in Libya to protect civilians, and is now blatantly siding against Syrian victims," he said.
Thirteen human rights groups from the Arab world also issued a statement Thursday urging Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa to publicly denounce Syria's candidacy and call on Arab states not to vote for Syria in the upcoming election.
AP and Reuters contributed to this report
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