July 11, 2013 - 00:15 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Syria and Iran are planning to run for a spot on the UN Human Rights Council later this year, despite criticism from watchdog groups about widespread rights abuses in both countries, Reuters reported citing UN diplomats.
The General Assembly's annual elections for the United Nations' 47-nation Geneva-based human rights body will be held later this year in New York. There will be 14 seats available for three-year terms beginning in January 2014.
From the so-called Asia group, which includes the Middle East and Asia, seven countries - China, Iran, Jordan, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Vietnam - are vying for four seats, UN diplomats said on condition of anonymity.
Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch said: "Syria's candidacy, if maintained, would be a cruel joke, but would almost certainly be met with a resounding defeat."
"Iran too falls far short of the most basic standards expected of Human Rights Council members and sticks out even in an overall disappointing pool of candidates in the Asia group, with deeply problematic contenders such as Vietnam, China or Saudi Arabia," Bolopion said.
Syria attempted to run for a seat on the rights council in 2011, but withdrew due to pressure from Western and Arab states. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and rebels are locked in an increasingly sectarian civil war that has killed as many as 100,000 people, according to UN figures.
Iran withdrew its bid for a seat on the rights council amid growing criticism of what one rights advocacy group said was Tehran's "appalling human rights record."