The United Nations Security Council plans to discuss human rights abuses by the Syrian government against protesters in the country's cities.
The United States, Britain and the EU have condemned the violence by Syria's 11 different security organizations against protesters demanding that President Bashar al-Assad step down. So far, said witnesses in Syria who have managed to communicate with the West, some 400 protesters have been gunned down by the Syrian security apparatus.
Syrian army and police forces shot into crowds in several cities throughout the country, and fired live ammunition into groups of protesters. Syrian army tanks were sent in to disperse crowds, and footage transmitted to the West by cellphone showed relentless attacks by tanks and armored vehicles mowing down everything in their path.
Among the issues the Security Council is expected to discuss are possible sanctions against Assad. In a statement Monday, Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the UK is “working with our partners on the United Nations Security Council to send a strong signal to the Syrian authorities that the eyes of the international community are on Syria, and with our partners in the EU and the region on possible further measures.” At the very least, diplomats said, the Council is expected to issue a condemnation of Assad.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned violence in Syria, saying that “the Syrian government must allow free movement and free access, it must stop the arbitrary arrest, detentions and torture of prisoners.”
It was a veritable about face from her position just a few weeks ago, when she said she had faith in Syrian dictator Assad, calling him a reformer. "There is a different leader in Syria now,” Clinton said in a television interview last month. “Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer,” she said.
Among the impetuses to Western action has been the appeal of Syrian human rights groups that have demanded action. The rights group Sawasiah said on Tuesday that the Syrian government's “savage behavior, which is aimed at keeping the ruling clique in power at the expense of a rising number of civilian lives, calls for immediate international action beyond condemnations. The murderers in the Syrian regime must be held accountable. The rivers of blood spilled by this oppressive regime for the past four decades are enough.”
Incredibly, as Syria is set to be condemned for its human rights abuses, the country is also leading candidate for election to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The election is set to take place on May 20, and Syria is considered a virtual shoe-in for election. A coalition of international groups is hoping to prevent Syria's election to the committee.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based monitoring group that opposes Syria's election to the Council, said that “Choosing Syria to be a global judge of human rights would be like appointing Bernard Madoff to defend victims of financial fraud. It’s a moral outrage.”