UNGA ‘Condemns’ Syria’s Assad for ‘Widespread’ Rights Violations

Posted February 16th, 2012 at 7:15 pm (UTC-5)
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The United Nations General Assembly has overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning Syria for “widespread and systematic” violations of human rights in its deadly crackdown on an 11-month-old opposition uprising.

The resolution approved by 137 of the assembly's 193 member states Thursday called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's autocratic government to “immediately put an end to attacks against civilians.” It also endorsed an Arab League plan for a democratic transition in Syria, requiring Mr. Assad to hand power to a deputy and form a unity government to prepare for internationally-supervised elections.

General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, but reflect world opinion on major issues. Eleven nations joined Syria in voting against the resolution, most notably Russia and China, which vetoed a similar measure in the U.N. Security Council earlier this month. The VOA correspondent in New York says other nations whose ambassadors spoke against the General Assembly resolution included Iran, North Korea, Bolivia and Venezuela.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, said the assembly sent a clear message to the Syrian people that “the world is with you” and President Assad “has never been more isolated.” She also said there is “resounding” international support for a “rapid transition to democracy” in Syria.

Syria's ambassador to the U.N., Bashar Jaafari, accused the resolution's Arab co-sponsors of colluding with “terrorists” to undermine the Syrian government. He said “the Arab Trojan Horse has been unmasked.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov called the resolution “unbalanced,” saying it did not make any demands of Syrian opposition groups, including rebels who took up arms in response to the government crackdown on peaceful protesters. Syria is a key military ally of Russia.

The General Assembly resolution did not mention an Arab League proposal to form a joint Arab-U.N. peacekeeping force for Syria. The VOA correspondent says Egypt's U.N. ambassador, Maged Abdelaziz, told reporters that the league still plans to bring up the peacekeeping proposal at the Security Council.

Earlier Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused the Assad government of “almost certain” crimes against humanity. Speaking on a visit to Vienna, Mr. Ban said Syrian “hospitals have been used as torture centers, (and) children as young as 10 years old (have been) jailed and abused.”

Syrian rights activists said Thursday the latest violence across Syria killed at least 39 people, including 19 people “massacred” by government troops in the northwestern province of Idlib. They said 11 of those killed in the incident were from the same family. The activists said pro-Assad troops also killed 10 rebels and four civilians in the central region of Hama, while fighting in the southern province of Daraa killed three soldiers and a civilian.

Rights groups say Mr. Assad's crackdown on dissent has killed more than 6,000 people since last March. There was no way to verify the latest casualty figures independently because Syria tightly restricts foreign media.

China said Thursday it is sending a senior diplomat to Syria for talks about the crisis. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun will hold talks with Syrian officials on Friday and Saturday.

The Chinese spokesman said Beijing wants a peaceful resolution in Syria. The vice foreign minister met with a Syrian opposition delegation in the Chinese capital last week.