October 31, 2013

Saudis urge U.N. condemnation of Syrian atrocities

A General Assembly vote is expected in late November.

The Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS — A draft U.N. resolution initiated by Saudi Arabia would strongly condemn “widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights” by the Syrian government and “any” abuses by anti-government armed groups.

Saudi Arabia, which backs rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad, has strongly criticized the Security Council’s failure to resolve Syria’s civil war and other conflicts, citing this as one reason for rejecting a seat on the U.N.’s most powerful body earlier this month.

U.N. diplomats said the draft resolution is expected to be submitted to the human rights committee of the less powerful but much larger General Assembly by Friday. The committee is expected to discuss it next week and vote on it in late November. If approved, it is virtually certain to be adopted by the 193-member General Assembly in December.

Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but they do carry moral and political weight.

The draft resolution is highly critical of the Assad government, expressing “outrage” at the continuing escalation of violence that has killed more than 100,000 people in 21/2 years of fighting and “alarm” at the regime’s failure to protect its people.

It blames Syrian authorities for a wide range of human rights abuses including the indiscriminate use of ballistic missiles and cluster munitions; the killing and persecution of protesters, human rights defenders and journalists; attacks on schools and hospitals; and torture, sexual violence and rape in detention.

The draft strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons in Syria and “strongly points” to their use in an Aug. 21 poison gas attack that killed hundreds of civilians in the Damascus suburb of Al-Ghouta.

It notes that the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference have held the Syrian government “fully responsible” for Al-Ghouta, and calls on the Security Council to take “the necessary measures against all those responsible for the chemical weapons attack” to ensure accountability.

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