UN condemns human rights violations in Syria

AP News
Posted: Dec 19, 2011 3:40 PM
UN condemns human rights violations in Syria

The U.N. General Assembly signaled growing international opposition to Syria's crackdown on civilians Monday, voting overwhelmingly to condemn human rights violations by President Bashar Assad's government and calling for an immediate end to violence.

The nonbinding resolution, sponsored by Britain, France and Germany, calls on Syrian authorities to implement an Arab League peace plan. It urges withdrawing government tanks from the streets, releasing political prisoners and allowing the entry of international observers into the country.

Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari accused some sponsors of the resolution of trying "to destroy Syria" using "military intervention on the pretext of civilian protection." He also accused these unnamed sponsors of waging a "political, media and diplomatic war" as part of a plan aimed at the disintegration of the region and country.

The resolution, which had more than 60 co-sponsors among them Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain, Kuwait and Turkey, was approved by a vote of 133-11 with 43 abstentions _ stronger support than last month's vote in the assembly human rights committee where the resolution was approved 122-13, with 41 abstentions.

Only Belarus, Cuba, Ecuador, Iran, Myanmar, Nicaragua, North Korea, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe voted against the resolution.

"The human rights situation in Syria continues to deteriorate," Germany's U.N. Ambassador Peter Wittig told the assembly before the vote, citing a report by U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay that found attacks on civilians are continuing "including a shoot-to-kill policy by Syrian security forces, thousands of arbitrary arrests, and the widespread use of torture in Syrian detention centers."

The adoption of the resolution with such strong support was a victory for the three European powers who failed in October to win approval for a legally binding Security Council resolution threatening sanctions against Syria for its violent crackdown because of Russian and Chinese vetoes.

Russia surprised fellow council members on Thursday with a proposed new resolution calling for an end to the violence that the U.N. estimates has killed 5,000 people over nine months. Western members welcomed the move, but said it didn't go far enough because it didn't mention sanctions and equated violence against civilians with violence against the government and its security forces.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said negotiations on the text would begin later Monday.