The brutal crackdown by Syrian President Bashar Assad may finally be getting the attention of world leaders -- but apparently not enough to stop Syria from becoming the newest member of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
And despite calling for an independent investigation into the crackdown, which has left hundreds dead, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon apparently won’t do much about blocking Syria’s path to the human rights group.
"That's not really for the secretary general to suggest to a member state," said Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for the secretary-general, when asked if the U.N. chief would ask Syria to drop out of the running for the post. When asked if Ban had brought up the point during his telephone conversation April 9 with Assad, Nesirsky told Fox News, "that's not really something the secretary general would raise specifically, because it's for other member states to decide on the membership of the Human Rights Council."
Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian human rights activist based in Washington, called on the secretary-general "to have a greater sense of decency and courage, and to realize that his position gives him a certain moral authority and puts him exactly in the position to tell the Assads that their candidacy at this stage is unwelcome." Abdulhamid was forced to flee Syria in 2005 following criticism of the Assad regime, and still finds himself under attack by the regime. His website was recently hacked and now posts the latest videos and news on his blog (http://syrianrevolutiondigest.blogspot.com).
A State Department spokesman last week said the U.S. would oppose Syria's bid to the Human Rights Council, calling it "inappropriate and hypocritical." But it would seem Syria is virtually guaranteed a seat, having been selected as one of four candidates for the Asian bloc.
While no Asian state is known to be looking to challenge Syria, Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, told Fox News that, "clearly it's an issue being discussed among the States and obviously depends on whether other countries in the Asian group put themselves up as a candidate." Asked if the U.N.’s Human Rights supremo, who has condemned the violence in Syria, would get involved, he echoed the words of Ban Ki-moon's spokesman, telling Fox News: "It's a matter for the States."
Anne Bayefsky, a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute and an expert on Human Rights issues at the U.N., tells Fox News that "Syria knows a good deal when it sees it and the like-minded countries in the Asian regional group that nominated Syria are just as enthusiastic about the U.N.'s idea of a "human rights" body. So the question for the Obama administration is not how do we keep Syria out, but why is the United States in?" She believes that the administration is working hard to keep Syria from gaining a seat "but for all the wrong reasons -- namely, to save the spectacle of an American foreign policy outsourced to the U.N."
Requests for comment from both the Syrian spokesman at their D.C. embassy and their U.N. ambassador went unanswered. However, as a prerequisite for membership to the Human Rights Council, countries are asked to fill out a Human Rights pledge. This is some of Syria’s pledge:(http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/65/784) "Syria's candidature to the Human Rights Council signifies its commitment to respect and to support the inalienable and indivisible nature of all human rights, both on the national and international levels. Syria believes that its membership of the Human Rights Council would contribute toward enriching the quality of dialogue, cooperation and action aimed at promotion and protection of human rights for all peoples.”
Abulhamid, who runs the non-profit Tharwa Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting democracy in the Middle East and North Africa, tells Fox News that "it's absolutely disgusting," that just as the Syrian leadership goes on "a murderous rampage" through Syria that it is being considered for membership to the council. He tells Fox News: "We hope that there is still a way to avert this tragic situation."
Bayefsky, who also edits eyeontheun.org. isn't so hopeful. "The secretary-general is focused on securing his reappointment. He doesn't have time for protecting human rights, at least when it runs the risk of offending potential supporters among the 56 state members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference," she says.
The vote takes place on May 20 at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Ben Evansky reports for Fox News on the United Nations and international affairs.
He can be followed @BenEvansky