Saudi Arabia has initiated a draft UN resolution to strongly condemn “widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights” by the Syrian government and “any” abuses by anti-government armed groups.
Saudi Arabia, which backs rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, has strongly criticised the Security Council’s failure to resolve Syria’s civil war and other conflicts, citing this as one reason for rejecting a seat on the UN’s most powerful body earlier this month.
UN diplomats said the draft resolution, obtained on Wednesday by the Associated Press news agency, is expected to be submitted to the human rights committee of the less powerful but much larger General Assembly by Friday’s deadline.
The committee is expected to discuss it next week and vote on it in late November.
If approved, it is virtually certain to be adopted by the 193-member General Assembly in December.
Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but they do reflect world opinion and carry moral and political weight.
The draft resolution is highly critical of the Assad government, expressing “outrage” at the continuing escalation of violence that has killed more than 100,000 people in 2 1/2 years of fighting and “alarm” at the regime’s failure to protect its people.
Human rights abuses and foreign fighters
It blames Syrian authorities for a wide range of human rights abuses including the indiscriminate use of ballistic missiles and cluster munitions; the killing and persecution of protesters, human rights defenders and journalists; attacks on schools and hospitals; and torture, sexual violence and rape in detention.
The draft strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons in Syria and “strongly points” to their use by the Syrian government in an August 21 poison gas attack that killed hundreds of civilians in the Damascus suburb of Al-Ghouta.
The draft also expresses “grave concern at the spread of extremism and extremist groups”.
It strongly condemns all foreign fighters in Syria, singling out those fighting for the government, especially Hezbollah fighters from neighbouring Lebanon.
Diplomats said the resolution’s strong demand for accountability and an end to impunity could be a problem for some countries when it comes to a vote, because of the precedent it could set.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are providing arms, money and logistical support to the rebels.
The Saudis and other Sunni Arab governments are eager to counter their regional rival Iran, which supports Hezbollah and has thrown its weight behind Assad.
The draft supports a new Geneva peace conference aimed at establishing a transitional government and the Syrian people’s aspirations.