Is Syrian ambassador to UN rights council planning to defect?

Tomorrow will see Foreign Ministers descend on Geneva for the opening of the first 2012 session of the UN Human Rights Council.

At a recent UN press conference, U.S. Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe offered a good review of what’s ahead. Click here for the transcript, and here for the audio. Reuters asked about UN Watch’s protest over Libya’s vehement attack against gays (minute 16:00).

Of note:

  • The Syrian envoy to the UN rights council,  Faysal Hamoui, hasn’t been seen in a while, and, alluding to the Libyans’ defection last year, Ambassador Donahoe hinted that he may be planning the same:

Ambassador Donahoe: [A]s a factual matter I have not seen the Syrian Ambassador recently… I haven’t seen him in a long time.

Media: Has he disappeared from Geneva?

Ambassador Donahoe: I can’t confirm or deny that. I personally haven’t seen him. Let me say one other thing which is a year ago when we did the special session on Libya, our relationship with the Libyans was rather strained and yet we were in communication with them. At that time they were trying to decide what their personal stance vis-à-vis the government would be, and by the time we had, the day we called for the special session, between then and the Friday, they had decided that they would disassociate themselves from the government. So I can’t tell you if the Syrian Ambassador is facing the same dilemma.

  • The council’s investigative mandate on Iran should be renewed “fairly easily,” and the U.S. hopes to increase pressure on the Iranian regime — through either an increased majority, or other language in the text — to allow the special rapporteur to enter the country. “Whether that happens or not, we think there’s real value in continuing this mandate because it shows the people inside Iran that the international community is paying attention and that the Iranian narrative about how they treat their people is not fooling anyone.”
  • There will be a resolution on Syria, expected to extend the current Commission of Inquiry, add further condemnation and include other tools to address the humanitarian situation. The ambassador did not, however, mention the appointment of a special rapporteur, which was supposed to come during this session, but is rumored to be on hold.  (An urgent debate on Syria is now slated for Tuesday.)
  • The US is confident of adopting a resolution on Sri Lankas’s 2009 atrocities, whose elements will include “real accountability, real implementation, and real reconciliation.” It will acknowledge alleged good aspects of Sri Lanka’s domestic investigation, while deeming the process inadequate.

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