Last updated: 19 December, 2013

UN assembly blasts Syria over war abuses

The United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday slammed rights abuses in Syria, whose UN envoy launched a furious onslaught against Saudi Arabia for pressing the initiative.

A resolution that has become an annual event since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011 was backed by 127 countries in the 193-nation assembly, with support down from 135 last year. Thirteen voted against and 47 abstained.

The resolution expressed “outrage” at the escalation of the 33-month-old Syrian civil war and laid most of the blame for the mounting death toll on President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

It strongly condemned the “widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms and all violations of international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities and the government-affiliated shabiha militias.”

The resolution also came close to blaming Assad’s government for an August 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus in which hundreds died.

A UN inquiry has confirmed that chemical weapons were used but has not blamed any side. The Syrian government has accused opposition rebels.

The resolution said the UN inquiry “provides clear evidence that surface-to-surface rockets were fired on August 21 from government-held territory into opposition areas, using professionally made munitions containing sarin.”

Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar Jaafari called the resolution “outrageously hostile” and a threat to efforts to end the war.

Jaafari blasted Saudi Arabia for leading the campaign for the vote. He accused the Saudi government, key backers of opposition rebels, of “dispatching Al-Qaeda operatives to my country.”

The assembly also passed resolutions condemning Iran and North Korea over their rights records.

A Canadian-drafted resolution on Iran welcomed pledges made by President Hassan Rouhani on freedom of expression and to eliminate discrimination against women.

But the resolution expressed “deep concern” over torture and other abuses, the widespread use of the death penalty, particularly for minors, and amputations and flogging as a punishment.

It said gender inequality and violence against women remains “pervasive.”

The resolution was passed with 86 countries in favor — the same as last year — 36 against and 61 abstaining. An Iranian diplomat called the measure “unbalanced.”

The annual condemnation of abuses in North Korea — including torture, the use of the death penalty and its many labor camps — was passed by consensus without even a vote. North Korea rejected the text as “politically motivated.”