Updated at: 10/30/2013 4:35 PM
By EDITH M. LEDERER
(AP) UNITED NATIONS - A draft U.N. resolution initiated by Saudi Arabia would strongly condemn "widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights" by the Syrian government and "any" abuses by anti-government armed groups.
Saudi Arabia, which backs rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad, has strongly criticized the Security Council’s failure to resolve Syria’s civil war and other conflicts, citing this as one reason for rejecting a seat on the U.N.’s most powerful body earlier this month.
U.N. diplomats said the draft resolution, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, is expected to be submitted to the human rights committee of the less powerful but much larger General Assembly by Friday’s deadline. The committee is expected to discuss it next week and vote on it in late November. If approved, it is virtually certain to be adopted by the 193-member General Assembly in December.
Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but they do reflect world opinion and carry moral and political weight.
The draft resolution is highly critical of the Assad government, expressing "outrage" at the continuing escalation of violence that has killed more than 100,000 people in 2 1/2 years of fighting and "alarm" at the regime’s failure to protect its people.
It blames Syrian authorities for a wide range of human rights abuses including the indiscriminate use of ballistic missiles and cluster munitions; the killing and persecution of protesters, human rights defenders and journalists; attacks on schools and hospitals; and torture, sexual violence and rape in detention.
The draft strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons in Syria and "strongly points" to their use by the Syrian government in an Aug. 21 poison gas attack that killed hundreds of civilians in the Damascus suburb of Al-Ghouta.
It notes that the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference have held the Syrian government "fully responsible" for the Al-Ghouta attacks, and calls on the Security Council to take "the necessary measures against all those responsible for the chemical weapons attack" to ensure accountability.
Diplomats said the resolution’s strong demand for accountability and an end to impunity could be a problem for some countries when it comes to a vote, because of the precedent it could set.
The draft also expresses "grave concern at the spread of extremism and extremist groups."
It strongly condemns all foreign fighters in Syria, singling out those fighting for the government, especially Hezbollah militants from neighboring Lebanon.
"Their involvement further exacerbates the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation, which has a serious negative impact on the region," it says.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are providing arms, money and logistical support to the rebels. The Saudis and other Sunni Arab governments are eager to counter their regional rival Iran, which supports Hezbollah and has thrown its weight behind Assad.
The draft calls for an end to all violence, including terrorist acts and intimidation "that may foment sectarian tensions."
It also demands an end to all human rights abuses, the immediate release of all detainees and immediate steps by the Syrian government to expand humanitarian relief operations.
The draft supports a new Geneva peace conference aimed at establishing a transitional government and the Syrian people’s aspirations "for a peaceful, democratic and pluralistic society ... in which there is no room for sectarianism or discrimination on ethnic, religious, linguistic, gender or any other grounds."
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)