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UNESCO Accepts Syria for Human Rights Committees

UNESCO's executive board has unanimously approved Syria's membership on two human rights committees.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 11/24/2011, 1:36 PM

The United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) has unanimously approved Syria's membership on two U.N. human rights committees.

One of the committees involves Syria's re-election to a second term on the 30-member Committee on Conventions and Recommendations, which examines "communications... relating to the exercise of human rights," according to UNESCO's website.

This comes as the United Nations plenum estimates that nearly 4,000 people have been killed in government crackdowns against civilian protesters in the nine-month "Arab Spring" uprising in Syria.

Syria will also now be allowed to join the 23-member Commitee on International Non-Governmental Organizations, mandated to encourage approved activist groups to help further the agency's overall goals.

UNESCO's 58-member executive board, which includes the United States, France, the UK and other Western democracies, approved Syria's memberships by consensus on November 11. However, the agency has delayed posting the voting results on its website.

The watchdog organization UN Watch issued a statement Wednesday calling on the UNESCO executive board to immediately reverse its election of Syria to the committees, which came just a day before the Arab League moved to suspend Syria's membership in its own regional body.

"The Arab League's suspension of Syria is stripped of any meaning when its member states elevate Syria to U.N. human rights committees," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based monitoring group.

"It's shameful for the U.N.'s prime agency on science, culture and education to take a country that is shooting its own people and empower it to decide human rights issues on a global scale."