United Nations condemns human rights violations in Syria
This post has been updated. See the note below for details.
The U.N. General Assembly condemned “widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities" and declared its backing for an Arab League plan that calls for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down in a Thursday resolution.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the Syrian government to stop the bloodshed. “The longer we debate, the more people will die,” he told reporters in Vienna.
The vote for the resolution, which is not legally binding, was 137 to 12 with 17 abstentions; several countries complained that they were unable to cast ballots due to problems with the voting machine, the Associated Press reported. Russia and China, which vetoed a more forceful resolution in the Security Council, voted against the measure.
[Updated 3:36 p.m. Feb. 16: The 12 countries that voted against the resolution were Belarus, Bolivia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Ecuador, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.]
The Assad government stands accused of waging a bloody crackdown against opposition protesters who began a series of street demonstrations nearly a year ago. The Syrian government says it has been attacked by terrorists; the U.S. ambassador to Syria recently said government forces "consistently" attack civilian areas.
Syrian Ambassador Bashar Jaafari called the resolution biased and said he was concerned that other countries were interfering in Syrian affairs. Though the resolution has no force, it was seen as an important symbol of where the world stands on Syria.
"Today, the U.N. General Assembly sent a clear message to the people of Syria: The world is with you," U.S. Ambassador Susan E. Rice said in a statement.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Bashar Jaafari, Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, calls a point of order before the General Assembly voted on the resolution Thursday. Credit: Justin Lane / European Pressphoto Agency