The United States and Israel said on Thursday that Syria and Iran, which according to UN envoys plan to run for spots on the UN Human Rights Council this year, do not deserve to be on the world body's rights watchdog due to "egregious" abuses.
The General Assembly's annual elections for the United Nations' 47-nation Geneva-based human rights body will be held this autumn in New York. There will be 14 seats available for the five UN regional groups for three-year terms beginning in January 2014.
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From the so-called Asia group, which includes the Middle East and Asia, seven countries – China, Iran, Jordan, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Vietnam – will be vying for four seats, UN diplomats said on Wednesday.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Rosemary DiCarlo said Iran and Syria did not belong on the UN rights council.
"Attempts by either country to join the Human Rights Council are highly inappropriate given existing Human Rights Council mandates to investigate human rights violations in these countries, their egregious records on human rights, and their on-going collaboration to suppress the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people," DiCarlo said.
Ambassador Ron Prosor of Israel, which like the United States has accused the Human Rights Council of unfairly criticizing the Jewish state while ignoring rights abuses by other countries, echoed DiCarlo's views.
"This might be a new world record for lunacy at the United Nations," Prosor said in an emailed statement to Reuters. "Putting Iran and Syria on a Human Rights Council is like putting the Godfather in charge of a witness-protection program."
Several diplomats predicted that Syria and Iran would fail in their bids to join the UN rights watchdog when the 193-nation General Assembly votes in November.
Hillel Neuer, the head of UN Watch, a Geneva-based advocacy group that monitors the work of the United Nations and first raised the possibility that Iran and Syria might run, declined to rule out the possibility that one or both of them would win and said their candidacies must be knocked down.
"Because both regimes were recently elected to other UN human rights panels – Iran on the women's rights commission and Syria on UNESCO's human rights committee – we cannot take anything for granted," he added.
"Syria is certainly less popular now, but Iran currently heads the largest UN voting bloc, the non-aligned movement," Neuer said. "We need to fight these candidacies."
Syria attempted to run for a seat on the rights council in 2011 but withdrew due to pressure from Western and Arab states. Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and rebels are locked in an increasingly sectarian civil war that has killed as many as 100,000 people, according to UN figures.
Iran dropped its bid for a seat on the rights council in 2010 amid criticism of its rights record. The Islamic Republic, like Russia, is one of Assad's top allies and arms suppliers.
Syrian and Iranian diplomats in New York had no comment.
Neuer said that other candidates with questionable human rights records include Algeria, Chad, Cuba, China and Russia.
Rights advocates have successfully mounted campaigns against other candidates for the rights council in the past, including Belarus, Sri Lanka and Azerbaijan.
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