PH absent during crucial vote on Syria
'One has to wonder why the Philippines became a Human Rights Council member in the first place'

SOLE ABSENTEE. The Philippines was nowhere in sight during the UNHCR voting that condemned grave rights abuses in Syria. Photo by Julie de Rivero

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines was the only member of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to be absent in Geneva during a vote on Friday, June 1, condemning the grave rights abuses in Syria.

The UNHRC also requested the Commission of Inquiry to urgently conduct a “comprehensive, independent, and unfettered special inquiry” into the El Houleh killings and to attempt to publicly identify those responsible. The resolution passed with 41 countries voting yes, 3 no, 2 abstentions, and 1 absent: the Philippines.

United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon had warned that a “catastrophic civil war” in Syria could erupt following the massacre which left over a hundred people dead, most of them children and women.

The UN has said the killings were carried out at close range with small arms and that pro-government fighters known as shabiha were responsible. A Syrian general however had a different version, saying, the El Houleh massacre was carried out by “terrorist armed groups” to persuade the outside world Syria was sliding into civil war and was meant to invite intervention by other countries.

“Apparently the Philippine delegation had better things to do during the crucial Human Rights Council vote on Syria,” said Julie de Rivero, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch. “One has to wonder why the Philippines became a Human Rights Council member in the first place.”


(This footage, uploaded by Syrian democracy activists on May 26, 2012, depicts the burial of roughly 100 inhabitants of the town of Al-Houla in Homs. They were allegedly killed by forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad. Over half of the dead were children under the age of 15.)

Crimes against humanity

The Commission of Inquiry has been tasked to look into the killings on May 25 that left 108 people, including 49 children and 34 women, killed by artillery and tank fire from Syrian forces. 

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has said the attacks “may amount to crimes against humanity and other international crimes.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday, May 31, that Russia’s refusal to take decisive action against Syrian President Bashar-al-Assad could worsen the situation in Syria. Despite numerous conversations with the Russians, they have shown little willingness to abandon Assad.

They are, in effect, “propping up the regime at a time when we should be working on a political transition,” Clinton said in a press conference in Copenhagen. Both Russia and China have opposed tougher UN Security Council action against Syria.

Pilay has urged the UN Security Council to urgently consider referring the case of Syria to the International Criminal Court. –


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