UNITED NATIONS - The United States on Thursday slammed Syria and Iran for seeking seats on the U.N.'s Human Rights Council, saying their own rights violations are under U.N. investigation.
Syria and Iran are candidates to join the 47-nation Geneva-based Council, along with other often-criticized nations such as Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Chad, Vietnam and Russia.
Syria is embroiled in a brutal civil war, with human rights groups blaming both President Basher Assad's government and the Syrian rebels for abuses. Iran is a key Syrian ally, and is also criticized for jailing political prisoners, and executing drug offenders.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Rosemary DiCarlo told reporters Thursday that "attempts by either country to join the Human Rights Council are highly inappropriate given existing Human Rights Council mandates to investigate human-rights violations in these countries, their egregious records on human rights, and their ongoing collaboration to suppress the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people."
Philippe Bolopion, the U.N. director for Human Rights Watch, said, "The Syrian government is either delusional, or it is purposefully insulting the very ideals at the heart of the Human Rights Council. Either way, a reality check is coming in the form of a humiliating defeat, even though Syria is facing candidates such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam or China, who would be well inspired to work on their own abysmal rights records before seeking to become world arbiters in these matters."
But Hillel Neuer, the director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, a watchdog group that often criticizes U.N. practices, warned: "Given that Iran was recently elected to the U.N. Commission on Women's Rights, and Syria to UNESCO's human-rights committee, we cannot take anything for granted.
"Syria is certainly less popular now, but Iran chairs the largest U.N. voting bloc - the nonaligned movement - through which it hosted a Tehran summit last year that drew many world leaders including U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon," Neuer said. "We need to seriously fight these candidacies."