Hillel Neuer
International human rights lawyer, writer & activist
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The UN and Syria: Business as usual

The United Nations has repeatedly rewarded the Assad regime despite its ongoing atrocities against its civilians

The following is testimony before the UN Human Rights Council, delivered by UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer, 18 June 2014, during the Interactive Dialogue with the UNHRC Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

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Mr. President, what the Commission of Inquiry has just described is a living hell. Faced with continuing reports of Syria’s mass murder, torture, rape, and gassing of civilians by chemical weapons, how is the United Nations responding?

With notable exceptions, this inquiry being one, the UN’s policy toward Syria can be described in three words: business as usual.

Consider the following. In November 2011, well into Syria’s atrocities, UNESCO elected the Syrian regime—unanimously—to its human rights committee.

I ask the commission: what message did the UN send, when—up until only a few  months ago—it allowed the Assad regime to sit as a judge of petitions submitted by human rights victims from around the world?

But Mr. President, it didn’t stop there. On February 20th of this year, as Syria’s Juhayna news trumpeted with glee, that country, that mass murdering regime, was “unanimously re-elected as Rapporteur of the UN Special Committee on Decolonization.”

In fact, as we meet, that committee—with Syria as its Rapporteur—is in session this week in New York, debating the future of Gibraltar, the Falklands, Bermuda, French Polynesia and New Caledonia.

So while Assad’s forces starve Palestinians to death in Yarmouk, his representative sits on a UN podium telling democracies like Britain, France, the U.S. and New Zealand how to treat their populations—all in exercise of his UN-elected mandate to end the “subjugation, domination and exploitation of peoples.”

But Mr. President, it didn’t stop there. In March, this Council undermined its own credibility on Syrian human rights, by adopting a resolution entitled “Human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan” — a resolution drafted by Syria itself.

The U.S. delegate commented at the time: “To consider such a resolution—while the Syrian regime continues to slaughter its own citizens by the tens of thousands—exemplifies absurdity.”

If we say we care about Syria’s dead and dying, then why are we acting like it’s business as usual?

Thank you, Mr. President.

About the Author
Hillel Neuer is executive director of UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights organization in Geneva, Switzerland. An international lawyer, Neuer has been described by the Tribune de Genève as a human rights activist who is “feared and dreaded” by the world’s dictatorships. Israel's Ma’ariv newspaper ranked Neuer as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Jewish People in the World.” Hillel Neuer is a renowned speaker who has published widely, testified before the United Nations and the U.S. Congress, and appeared on CNN, BBC, and Al Jazeera. On September 14, 2016, the City of Chicago adopted a resolution declaring “Hillel Neuer Day” in recognition of his work as “one of the world’s foremost human rights advocates.” In June 2018, McGill University awarded Neuer with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, citing his work as “an innovator” in “creating global platforms for courageous dissidents and champions of human rights from around the world,” and for being “a passionate advocate for human rights, fighting tirelessly against discrimination, torture, and injustice."
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