Iran, Syria mustn’t enter UN human rights body, Israel says

(JTA) — Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations warned that electing Iran and Syria to the United Nations Human Rights Council would create a discrediting conflict of interest.

“It’s like placing a mob boss in charge of the witness protection program,” Ambassador Ron Prosor said on Thursday. He was reacting to a report by Reuters and other media that Iran and Syria planned to run for open seats on the council’s 47-member body despite criticism from watchdog groups about widespread rights abuses in both countries.

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The General Assembly’s annual elections for the Geneva-based Human Rights Council will be held later this year in New York. There will be 14 seats available for three-year terms beginning in January 2014.

Hillel Neuer, the head of UN Watch, a Geneva-based advocacy group that monitors the work of the United Nations, said “countries that murder and torture their own people must not be allowed to become the world’s judges on human rights.”

Neuer, whose group is affiliated with the American Jewish Committee, added that “we cannot take anything for granted,”  because both regimes were recently elected to other U.N. human rights panels – Iran on the women’s rights commission, and Syria on UNESCO’s, the U.N.’s science and culture affiliate.

Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch said: “Syria’s candidacy, if maintained, would be a cruel joke, but would almost certainly be met with a resounding defeat.”

Last year the United States was reelected to the rights council. Washington has often criticized the council for what it sees as unfair singling out of Israel while ignoring severe rights abuses by other countries.