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Syria A Top Priority for U.N Human Rights Council, Donahoe Says
February 24, 2012

By Jane Morse | Staff Writer
A woman speaks at a meeting
Ambassador Donahoe speaking at a Feb 22 Briefing at the UN

Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, the U.S. representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council

Washington — Syria will be a top priority at the upcoming session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, says Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, the U.S. representative to the council.

The 19th regular session of the council is set to be held February 27– March 23.

“I think there’s an overwhelming consensus that the Assad regime must go; the violence has to stop,” Donahoe said at a press conference at the Palais des Nations in Geneva February 22.

“Assad is being more and more isolated. Unfortunately, it’s not yet universal. The condemnation isn’t quite to that point yet, but it’s moving in that direction,” Donahoe said. She noted that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will be attending the February 24 Friends of Syria meeting in Tunis with other world leaders to find ways to deliver humanitarian relief to the most threatened areas in Syria and look for other ways to pressure Assad to leave and end the violence.

The recent deaths of journalists in the Syrian conflict, Donahoe said, underscored the value of free media. “Without a free media, human rights defenders and activists cannot get their messages out,” she said. “The international community is not able to support the work or convey support for anyone in a closed society if we don’t get their messages.”

Marie Colvin, an American journalist, and French photographer Remi Ochlik died when a shell hit their makeshift media center February 22 in the Syrian city of Homs.

Regarding Sri Lanka, Donahoe said the United States firmly believes a Human Rights Council resolution is warranted that would call for real reconciliation based on a truthful accounting of the government’s involvement in the large-scale civilian casualties that took place during the years-long civil war that finally ended in 2009.

“We are working to convince the Sri Lankan government that there has to be greater evidence of serious implementation of the recommendations in their own domestic report and greater accountability in order to satisfy the victims and the various communities that feel like they have not yet been heard,” Donahoe said.

In her comments on Iran, Donahoe said the council’s landmark resolution last March to establish a special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran will most probably be renewed.

“We hope to be able to increase pressure on the Iranian regime through either increased numbers or other potential language in the resolution to allow the special rapporteur to enter Iran,” she said. “Whether that happens or not, we think there’s real value in continuing this mandate because it shows the people inside Iran that the international community is paying attention and that the Iranian narrative about how they treat their people is not fooling anyone.”