Western diplomats say Kuwait will replace Syria as a candidate for a seat on the United Nations’ top human rights body in the wake of an intense campaign against the Syrian regime for its ongoing crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising.
Kuwait has agreed “privately” to contest the May 20 secret-ballot vote at the UN General Assembly as a candidate for one of the four seats on the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, one western diplomat said on Tuesday.
“Syria has faced several calls from the Asia group to withdraw,” another envoy said.
Diplomats said it was unclear whether Syria would take over Kuwait’s bid for a council slot in 2013.
In January Syria was slated as one of the four candidates alongside India, Indonesia, and the Philippines, for seats to be filled by Asia under a convention that stipulates UN bodies be filled by regional blocs.
Human rights groups and some governments have been campaigning to keep Syria off the council.
Their efforts intensified after Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests that began in March.
“Kuwait’s candidacy certainly reduces the chances that Syria will get elected,” Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, told AFP.
“Syria should see the writing on the wall and withdraw.”
Geneva-based UN Watch hailed the news but voiced concern over Kuwait being its replacement.
Kuwait is “far better than Syria, but another non-democracy nevertheless”, the group said, according to the Reuters news agency.
According to the National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria, over 750 civilians have been killed and around 9,000 people arrested since Syrian authorities ordered a violent crackdown to quell anti-regime protests.
The Syrian government has been strictly barring journalists from entering the country to report on the uprising that calls for an end to Bashar al-Assad’s 11-year rule.