2011-04-21 Syrian government lobbies for seat on UN Human Rights Council while preparing large scale attack on Friday protests and students

“We don’t believe the government anymore. All their decisions are just ink on paper for us.” –Omar Ali, a Kurdish-Syrian activist.

Thirteen human rights groups have signed a press release condemning the Arab League’s support of Syria’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. The regional group for Syria has the same number of nominations as they have seats available, so at this point Syria seems guaranteed a seat. While the human rights groups feel that support for Syria’s bid is an “an insult to the UN body and its mission”, a quick glance at the current membershipshows Syria, who have killed some 220-250 of their own citizens in recent weeks anddetained and tortured close to a thousand, should feel right at home. While Libya was recently suspended, the council still has Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Gabon, Nigeria, Cameroon and enough other countries with sordid human rights records to constitute a jury of their peers. They need support from half of the members, when the vote takes place on May 20.

SANA state news agency today published the decrees on ending the state of emergency, abolishing the Supreme State Security Court, and regulating the right to peaceful demonstration, signed today by President Bashar al-Assad. Opposition activist Haitham al-Maleh told Reuters the move was “useless”, and “The problem is that the ruling elite and the security have put their hands on the judiciary, and that other legislation they had introduced exempted the security forces from being held accountable to law.”

Abdel Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian vice president based in Paris told BBC Arabic: “The crisis in Syria has nothing to do with the presence or absence of the state of emergency. It is not the state of emergency that arrests people and takes them to jail and it is not the state of emergency that fires on people. … Assad has exposed himself completely before the people, through the crimes committed by his security apparatus. This has created a deep feeling among Syrians that the continuation of the regime would be a catastrophe. The depth of the rift between the regime and the majority of the people… will lead to the collapse of a regime desperately struggling to survive.”

Yesterday protests continued unabated by the announcement, as the country gears up for what both sides are expecting to be a huge demonstration with huge retaliation. This week has seen a concentration on government crackdown on students and universities, with many arrested and beaten. Security is readying for Friday, when protests are expected in 40 or more cites, by deploying armed security in plainclothes everywhere protests are expected. Tanks are reported in Tahrir Square in Homs.

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