07/05/2012 05:05 EDT | Updated 09/04/2012 05:12 EDT

A Bastion for Human Rights? The UN Nominates Syria...Seriously


In what can only be described as an act straight from the "theatre of the absurd", comes news that Syria is running for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. Only thing, this is no fiction!

According to UN Watch, an independent human rights group based in Geneva, "the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad is a declared candidate for a seat on the 47-nation U.N. body, in elections to be held next year at the 193-member General Assembly."

The Syrian regime will be one of four nations from the 53 block of Asian nations running as part of a fixed slate of "faux elections" for the Council, in which regional groups plan, devise and orchestrate uncontested elections. This is precisely how some of the current human rights luminaries on the Council, such as Saudi Arabia, China, Russia and Cuba "won" their positions.

Unless another Asian country nominates, Syria will win a three-year term on the UN body charged with strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the world.

News of Syria's candidacy broke after UN Watch discovered it was vying for a seat from a US-sponsored and EU-backed draft resolution that was debated Wednesday in Geneva. The resolution sought to pre-empt Syria's candidacy by declaring it ineligible on the basis that it "fails to meet the standards for Council membership" as set forth in its founding charter.

That Syria is a contender for a seat on the Council should not come as a major revelation, as Syria had originally declared its official candidacy in May 2011. Although the regime dropped out of the race at the last minute to make way for another human rights bastion -- Kuwait -- Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari made clear at the time the regime was "reconsidering our priorities" and would run for the Council again in 2013.

At the same time Syria originally declared its candidacy, which also happened to coincide with the beginning of Assad's murderous rampage in March that year, Ja'afari also said "promotion and protection of human rights are of the highest importance to Syria." Wow, even Joseph Goebbles would have been impressed with Ja'afari's efforts to whitewash his regime's crimes.

Ordinarily, one would not have needed to go into details about Assad's unbridled brutality, however given his decision to run again for the Council, perhaps a brief refresher is in order.

Since uprising first began in March 2011, almost 14,000 innocent people have been mercilessly slaughtered by the regime.

According to a Human Rights Watch report released this week, Syria is running an "archipelago of torture centers," where detainees are beaten with batons and cables, burned with acid, had their fingernails pulled and have been sexually assaulted.

Freedom House has rated Syria one of the "Worst of the Worst" nations in its 2012 Freedom in the World survey, having given it the lowest possible rating for political and civil rights.

Even the UN's chief observer to Syria has said that the level of violence is "unprecedented" (notwithstanding that the UN itself seems to be doing little but seemingly just "observing" Assad continue along his merry killing ways).

But for Bashar Ja'afari, and the regime which represents, the term "human rights" does not even enter the lexicon, with Ja'afari having previously said "the so-called turmoil does not affect our candidacy," adding "[t]hese are two different issues." And if the UNHRC's record is anything to judge by, he is absolutely right here.

As long as the UNHRC continues to count gross human rights violators such as Saudi Arabia, China, Russia and Cuba among its members, then clearly observing even a modicum of human rights has no correlation to being elected to this body.

The UNHRC was formed in 2006 specifically in order to create a new body to tackle human rights abuses in light of the failures of its discredited predecessor, the UN Human Rights Commission.

The Commission was largely criticized for its one-sided obsession with Israel and the make-up of its members, which included some of the most abusive regimes like, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia and Cuba. Libya even chaired the Commission during 2003.

Former Secretary General Kofi Annan said this contributed to the Commission's "fatal credibility deficit" -- one that was casting "a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole."

Regrettably, the new UNHRC has done little to improve the reputation of the United Nations and continues to make a complete mockery of human rights as a concept.

That Syria is able to even nominate for the UNHRC in the first place, let alone be in a strong position to win a seat, is reflective of the endemic problem with the body -- the fact that observance of human rights is no barrier to becoming a member.

Enough with this charade of tyrants, butchers and dictators. It is time to disband this sham of a body and replace it with a Democratic Council, before it makes any further mockery of human rights.