OTHER VOICES

Syria and the UN

Posted June 07, 2011, at 6:24 p.m.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s bloody crackdown on his own people has warranted his country’s loss of a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Syria’s expected appointment to fill one of the Asian seats on the council met with strong opposition from human rights groups over Syria’s response to protests. Human rights groups say more than 900 people have been killed by Assad’s government forces in the past two months.

Council members are selected on a rotating basis by regions, often without regard for their own human rights abuses. That might have been the case for Syria were it not for a diplomatic campaign by the Obama administration leading to the General Assembly’s appointment of Kuwait along with India and Indonesia to seats allocated to Asia. The Philippines, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Republic of Congo, Czech Republic, Romania, Austria, Italy, Peru, Costa Rica and Chile also were approved while Nicaragua and Georgia failed to win seats.

The council’s dismal record of tolerating as members those who violate basic human rights and its anti-Israel leanings caused the Bush administration not to join. The council has met with opposition in Congress. However, President Barack Obama changed course. The U.S. was again appointed to the council in 2009 to play a more effective role as it did in a campaign of quiet diplomacy to persuade Arab and Asian countries not to support Syria’s bid for membership in the body.

The council in February ousted Libya after Moammar Gadhafi’s attacks on civilians. Last year, Iran lost in its bid for one of 47 seats on the council.

President Obama’s approach is succeeding.

The Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times  (June 1)

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