Outrage as Syria stays on UN human rights body

By Jessica Elgot, March 9, 2012
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Geneva-based UN Watch called the decision "an insult to the victims"

Geneva-based UN Watch called the decision "an insult to the victims"

Campaigners have called a Unesco vote to keep Syria on the human rights committee a “lingering stain on the UN as a whole.”

The UN’s education, science and culture agency voted to keep Syria on its human rights committee, despite protests from the US and the UK. Syria will keep its seat on the Unesco board and human rights panel. The vote was 35 for, eight against, with 14 abstentions and one absent at the meeting in Paris today.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, said: "For Unesco to keep President Bashar al-Assad on a human rights committee while his regime mercilessly murders its own people is simply immoral, indefensible and an insult to Syria's victims. While today's text rightly condemns Syria's violations -- a welcome first for Unesco -- the promised call to oust the regime from Unesco's human rights panel has been completely excised."

"We're left with words, but no teeth. By maintaining Assad in a position of global influence on human rights, Unesco today is sending absolutely the wrong message. It an unconscionable insult to the suffering people of Syria.

“"The world squandered a golden opportunity to expose the Assad regime's lack of legitimacy. Politics simply trumped human rights, with too many Unesco diplomats fearing that if Syria were removed for its violations, many of them would be next."

The American Jewish Committee’s executive director , David Harris , said: “We are simply dumbfounded that the UNESCO executive committee, while reprimanding Syria, did not go further and oust Syria from its human rights body. Naming Syria to this Unesco committee in the first place last November was a horrible mistake, and now the Syrian people have been let down."

More than 50 parliamentarians, human rights and religious groups have called for the country’s expulsion.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the UK “deplores the continuing membership of Syria on this committee and does not believe that Syria’s presence is conducive to the work of the body or Unesco’s reputation.”

Last updated: 5:10pm, March 9 2012