U.N. committee votes to condemn rights abuses in Syria

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 20:15 EDT
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A United Nations arms expert collects samples on Aug. 29, 2013, as they inspect the site where rockets had fallen in Damascus' eastern Ghouta suburb. [AFP]
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A UN committee on Tuesday slammed rights abuses by the Syrian government after a debate marked by a bitter clash between the UN envoys of Saudi Arabia and Syria.

The UN General Assembly rights committee voted overwhelmingly for a Saudi-drafted resolution which expressed “outrage” at the escalation of the 32-month-old Syrian civil war.

The resolution — passed with 123 nations in favor, 13 against and 46 abstaining — laid most of the blame for the huge death toll on the Syrian government.

The resolution strongly condemned “the continued widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms and all violations of international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities and the government-affiliated shabbiha militias.”

In giving a strong condemnation of an August 21 chemical weapons attack in which hundreds died, the resolution came close to blaming President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

A UN inquiry has confirmed that chemical weapons were used but has not blamed any side. The Assad government has accused opposition rebels of staging the attack.

The resolution said a UN inquiry “provides clear evidence that surface-to-surface rockets were fired on August 21 from government-held territory into opposition areas, using professionally made munitions containing sarin.”

Saudi Arabia’s UN envoy Abdullah al-Mouallimi and his Syrian counterpart Bashar Jaafari came to diplomatic blows over the resolution.

Mouallimi said the resolution aimed to highlight “the suffering imposed on people in Syria such as mass killing, genocide, starvation, torture, oppression, kidnapping, terrorism and abduction.”

Addressing Jaafari, he added: “I would like to invite him, with affection and respect, to be embarrassed by covering up the crimes perpetrated by his authorities.”

Saudi Arabia is a major backer of the Syrian opposition and an infuriated Jaafari hit back, calling the resolution “shameful.”

“The Saudi regime is the last one that can talk about human rights given its black record in the domain,” Jaafari said.

The resolution is the third to be voted by the rights committee and the support was down from 2012 when 135 countries voted for, 12 were against and 36 abstained.

The resolution will get a new airing before the full General Assembly later this year.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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