The same day the UN published its latest Syria inquiry report, which classified the regime’s acts as international crimes, it also prepared to elect it to a body that protects self-determination.

The United Nations is due to elect a Syrian regime representative to a senior seat as rapporteur for the Special Committee on Decolonization, a body tasked with upholding fundamental human rights and bringing an end to the “subjugation, domination and exploitation” of peoples. 

The announcement came the same day the UN also published its most recent inquiry on Syria, which underlined that Bashar al Assad’s regime forces and associated militias committed acts against the civilian population that likely constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and “other international crimes, including genocide”.

“That the UN announced its intention to elect the Syrian regime to a senior UN post on the same day that an inquiry accused the regime of crimes against humanity is morally repulsive and logically absurd,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of Geneva-based human rights organization, UN Watch. 

“Putting Syria on top UN committees only helps the Assad regime portray itself a UN arbiter of human rights. It’s an insult to Syria’s millions of victims”

The 29-member committee aims to help decolonise and assist 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories, like Guam, French Polynesia, and the British Virgin Islands.

The UN had come under fire in 2013 for its inclusion of Syria in the UNESCO human rights committee, despite pressure from various states for its expulsion, and has been accused of “condoning” human rights abuses in Syria in different capacities.
The UN had come under fire in 2013 for its inclusion of Syria in the UNESCO human rights committee, despite pressure from various states for its expulsion, and has been accused of “condoning” human rights abuses in Syria in different capacities. (AP)

The regime’s systematic abuse of Syrians has been recorded and classified as crimes against humanity as early as 2011, when the regime violently cracked down on peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators, and it quickly spiralled into war.

Since then, the UN, journalists, independent rights watchdogs and NGOs have recorded different types of war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Assad regime and its allies, including torture; rape and sexual abuse (including of children); enforced disappearances; deliberate targetting of civilians and children; deliberate targeting of internationally protected zones like hospitals and schools; use of chemical weapons; mass executions; indiscriminate targeting of civilians; collective punishment, including denial of food and water.

“The horrors of the conflict have left no Syrian family untouched,” the UN said in its report.

Even before the war, Syria was notorious for its human rights abuses, ranging from enforced disappearances, massacres of political dissidents, to widespread torture, particularly under current regime leader, Bashar al Assad, and his predecessor, his father Hafez al Assad. 

War crime denialism

The chair of the committee, Ambassador Keisha McGuire of Grenada announced during the February 18 Organizational Session that the election of ambassador Bassam al Sabbagh, who is also the permanent representative of Syria to the UN, would be postponed to a later date. She then paid special tribute to Sabbagh’s predecessor, Bashar Jaafari.

Jaafari had made headlines in 2016, when he laughed at an Al Jazeera journalist’s question regarding the regime’s bombings of hospitals in Aleppo

“...[F]or reasons beyond our control he [Sabbagh] was unable to join us today,” said a Syrian representative at the meeting. 

“We thank the committee for having deferred the election until the month of June…The Syrian Arab Republic has always supported the proceedings of the Special Committee as well as the efforts of the committee to reinforce the right to self-determination. You can count on our support,” she continued.

Like his predecessor, Sabbagh, has also partaken in war crime denialism, including dismissing international investigations of the regime’s use of chemical weapons as “deceitful allegations and fabrications against Syrian authorities.”

Sabbagh is also Syria’s permanent representative to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). There are very few people who are not found guilty by international courts and are not sanctioned who can represent Syria in the international arena. 

Source: TRT World