The Security Council today failed to hold a public meeting on the human rights situation in Syria — which would have featured a briefing by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein — following a procedural vote on the matter called by the Russian Federation.
By a vote of 8 in favour (France, Kuwait, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States) to 4 against (Bolivia, China, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation), with 3 abstentions (Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia), the Council failed to adopt its provisional agenda.
Speaking before the vote, François Delattre (France) said his country and six other members had requested the meeting from a belief that human rights could not be dissociated from the dynamics of the Syrian conflict. “Human rights are a fundamental aspect of the crisis,” and the Council needed to have all necessary information to understand the situation. Human rights were the source of the violence and its worsening, to the detriment of international peace and security.
He said the briefing would complement discussions on humanitarian, chemical and political developments in Syria. “Perhaps we are in denial” about the realities of the conflict, he suggested, calling the tactics of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) “weapons used to control populations and territories”. If the Council wanted to avoid a repetition of the same atrocities, it must contribute to a political solution.
“We do not see justification for this meeting,” said Igor V. Kuzmin (Russian Federation). Human rights were not on the Council’s agenda. They were addressed by the Human Rights Council in Geneva and the fact that the High Commissioner was in New York did not merit such a meeting.
Moreover, he wished to hear how the Syrian regime had violated the rights of populations, he said, rather than the extremists, whom those countries calling for today’s meeting supported. “This really confirms our concerns about the very politicized nature of the meeting,” he said, also asking the Secretariat to explain why it had disseminated information of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as no such material had been requested. Perhaps it sought to assist those countries seeking today’s meeting.
Kelley A. Eckels-Currie (United States) said her delegation supported today’s meeting and urged others to adopt the provisional agenda. The Russian Federation’s efforts to distract from the grave human rights violations in Syria were appalling and should not be allowed to stand.
Shen Bo (China) said the United Nations Charter clearly stipulated the functions and division of labour of all United Nations bodies. The Council would discuss international peace and security, not human rights. Pushing it into discussing human rights would erode the functions of other United Nations bodies. He would oppose the Council discussing the human rights situation in Syria.
Karel Jan Gustaaf van Oosterom (Netherlands), Council President for March, asked the representative of the Russian Federation to clarify what his delegation wanted to bring to a vote, to which Mr. Kuzmin replied that he requested a vote on whether to hold the meeting.
The last time the Council failed to adopt its provisional agenda following a procedural vote was on 27 February 1962 (document S/PV.991), when the United Kingdom opposed a meeting requested by Cuba. After more than four hours of procedural discussions, the provisional agenda was rejected by a vote of 4 in favour to none against, with 7 abstentions. At that time, the Council numbered 11 members, with a vote requiring a majority of 7.
The meeting began at 3:19 p.m. and ended at 3:33 p.m.