Egypt backs Syrian regime, receives sharp criticism

Egypt is backing Syrian diplomatic efforts to block a Western-supported UN resolution condemning Damascus’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, a human rights advocate said on Thursday.

“Egypt has introduced amendments to a proposed UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution, according to which the council should not condemn the bloody governmental crackdown on peaceful protesters in Syria,” said Radwan Ziadeh, a Syrian human rights activist, via telephone from Geneva.  

The Syrian unrest began in the middle of March after a group of schoolchildren in the town of Deraa, bordering Jordan, were arrested for writing anti-government slogans. The people rushed to the streets demanding their release.

The regime of President Bashar al-Assad has launched a deadly campaign to quash the protests. The death toll is now more than 450, according to Ziadeh, who attended the special session of the Geneva-based UNHCR.

“I can’t believe that revolutionary Egypt is completely ignoring the massacres in Syria, [and even] supporting the regime. Egypt shouldn’t support Assad,” said the Washington-based advocate. Rather, it “should look to the Syrian lives that are being lost because of the bloody crackdown.”

The United States – along with Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Senegal, Zambia and ten European states – have managed to force a special session of the UNHRC on Friday to examine the crackdowns. It marks the first time that a special session has been held on the human rights situation in Syria, which has submitted a bid to become a UNHRC member.

A draft proposed by France, Britain, Germany and Portugal was opposed by members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), along with some African countries who opposed the idea of holding such a session.

On Thursday, two Egyptian rights watchdogs, along with two Syrian ones, issued a statement condemning the “shameful position” of the OIC toward the crackdown in Syria. According to the statement, the OIC's proposed amendments “don’t only ignore the basic and recognized human rights,” but would also give “immunity to the crimes and massacres perpetrated by the Syrian authorities.”

The rights watchdog Amnesty International on Tuesday called on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

“The Syrian government is clearly trying to shatter the will of those peacefully expressing dissent by shelling them, firing on them and locking them up,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

The US is considering targeted sanctions against Syria and has underscored the point that it has evidence that Iran is supporting the crackdown on peaceful protesters.

President Obama condemned Syria for its "outrageous use of violence" and said the government's moves to lift the state of emergency and allow peaceful demonstrations "were not serious given the continued violent repression against protesters."

France announced that it has called in the Syrian ambassador to explain his government’s attacks on its citizens. Four other European governments – Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain – also called in their Syrian ambassadors.

“I do think that the regime of [former president] Mubarak is still in place. Egypt’s foreign policy hasn’t changed at all,” claimed Ziadeh.  

“I expect tomorrow to be a fierce session, and we are working closely with the Latin American group in the UNHRC in order to ensure the required votes [of 24] for condemning the bloody crackdown on protesters,” concluded Ziadeh.

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