Leah Barkoukis
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If you thought about which countries should fill some of the seats on the UN’s Human Rights Council, Syria and Iran probably wouldn’t be the first to come to mind—and rightly so. Unfortunately, however, these two countries are planning to run for the open seats on the council’s 47-member body.  

The General Assembly's annual elections for the United Nations' 47-nation Geneva-based human rights body will be held later this year in New York. There will be 14 seats available for three-year terms beginning in January 2014.

From the so-called Asia group, which includes the Middle East and Asia, seven countries - China, Iran, Jordan, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Vietnam - are vying for four seats, UN diplomats said on condition of anonymity.

Sure, the pool of candidates from the ‘Asia group’ is pretty terrible to begin with, but Syria and Iran stick out nonetheless. Syria, after all, is embroiled in a brutal civil war where terrible atrocities have been committed by both President Assad’s government and rebel forces; and human rights abuses are rife in Iran, including but certainly not limited to the jailing of political opponents, having a high rate of executions and blocking access to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran!

Some reactions:

“Its like placing a mob boss in charge of the witness protection program,” Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York Ron Prosor said on Thursday.

Hillel Neuer, the head of UN Watch, a Geneva-based advocacy group that monitors the work of the United Nations, said “countries that murder and torture their own people must not be allowed to become the world’s judges on human rights.” […]

Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch said: “Syria’s candidacy, if maintained, would be a cruel joke, but would almost certainly be met with a resounding defeat.”

According to the Jerusalem Post, one diplomat echoed Bolopion's prediction that Syria, at least,  would fail in its bid to join the council when the General Assembly votes in the fall. But who knows, this is the UN we are talking about. (Remember: Libya was elected chair of the human right commission back in 2003.)

Update: A spokesman for Iran’s UN Missions said it dropped out of the race back in February. That still leaves Syria though... 


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Leah Barkoukis

Leah Barkoukis is the Assistant Editor at Townhall.com/Townhall Magazine.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography