During a time set aside for NGO submissions, U.N. Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer asked the council whether it was using the session as a way of “deflecting the world’s attention from the world’s worst abusers.”
“In the past year you did not cry out when thousands of protestors were killed and injured, by Turkey, Egypt and Libya; when more victims than ever were hanged by Iran; when women and children in Afghanistan were bombed; whole communities were massacred in South Sudan; hundreds in Pakistan were killed by jihadist terrorist attacks; 10,000 Iraqis were killed by terrorists.”
Neuer was interrupted by the chairman, after Egypt – which is not a member of the HRC but was representing the Arab group – raised a point of order.
Hillel spoke during a special emergency session of the Geneva-based HRC, which ended with the adoption of a resolution that condemned Israel for “widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms” and mandated a commission of inquiry into its two week-old military offensive. The resolution did not mention Hamas.
“I don’t see that we have a reason to come and discuss other issues relating to human rights situations in other different countries,” said Egypt’s delegate.
He was supported in the complaint by envoys from Iran, Venezuela, the “State of Palestine” – and Cuba, whose representative said it was “inconceivable that an NGO should be able to come to this council to distract us, with the little time we have to debate an issue which is of such crucial importance as the genocide being committed currently against the Palestinian people.”
The U.S., Canada and Israel voiced support for U.N. Watch to be able to complete its statement.
Permitted to continue, Neuer then pointed to the deaths of Palestinians in Syria during the civil war that began in 2011.
“If those who refuse to speak out for Palestinians – 1,800 Palestinians, if not more – who were starved to death and murdered by Assad in Syria, but you only cry out when Israel can be blamed, then you are not pro-human rights, you are only anti-Israel,” he said.
Syria’s delegate objected.
“We’re used to hearing this non-governmental organization creating divisions among the speakers, and speaking out of turn. I hope this speaker will no longer be allowed to continue his statement,” he said.
Neuer then concluded: “Let the world note that, in a session purportedly on Palestinian human rights, the government of Syria objected for us to mention the 1,800 Palestinians that they starved and murdered.”
According to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which is responsible for Palestinian refugees in the Palestinian territories and Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, 63 percent of the refugees it has registered in Syria – 270,000 – have been displaced by the civil war.
The situation is particularly dire in Yarmouk, a Damascus suburb which before the civil war began was home to more than 150,000 Palestinians, but now has around 20,000 residents.
In December 2012 Syrian regime warplanes bombed Yarmouk, killing at least 25 civilians, and began a siege on the area which was tightened in July 2013, and remains in force today. Even before that 2012 bombing, at least 620 Palestinians were reported to have been killed in the Syrian conflict.
An Amnesty International report last March found that since the regime tightened the siege in mid-2013, at least 200 more Yarmouk inhabitants had died, 128 of them having starved to death.
It reported on ongoing attacks by the regime and its allies, including air raids and shelling, on civilian buildings such as schools, hospitals and a mosque in Yarmouk.
At least 60 percent of the remaining inhabitants were suffering from malnutrition, Amnesty International said, citing reports of people so desperate some had resorted to eating cats and dogs.