U.N. Plans Urgent Meeting on Middle East Unrest

April 20, 2011 - 10:34 AM

Geneva (AP) - Several members of the U.N.'s top human rights body are pressing for an emergency meeting to examine the government crackdowns against popular protests that have swept the Middle East and North Africa, Western diplomats said Wednesday.

The countries, from Latin America, Europe, North America and Asia, are trying to collect 16 signatures necessary to force a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council next week, the diplomats said.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, which was underlined by the innocuous title proposed for the meeting -- "Promotion and protection of human rights in the context of recent peaceful protests."

The title was chosen to avoid singling out particular countries, the diplomats said. But they confirmed that Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria would be among the nations whose violent suppression of protests would be on the agenda.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference, whose members carry significant weight in the 47-nation Human Rights Council, said it wouldn't consent to holding such a meeting.

"We think that the events that are taking place do not merit some kind of a special session," said Zamir Akram, Pakistan's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva.

He accused those advocating a special session of double standards, and said the OIC would use any such meeting to focus on human rights abuses by Israel instead.