(JTA) — Syria is seeking to replace Libya on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Libya was suspended from the 47-nation body on March 1, the first time a country has been suspended since the council was founded in 2006.
Syria, led by President Bashar Assad, declared Wednesday that it is running for a seat in the May 20 elections, according to UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights group.
"It’s an outrage," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, in a statement. "Gadhafi was just ousted by the U.N. on grounds that a government which brutalizes its own people doesn’t belong on the world’s highest human rights body. Well, the Assad regime runs a notorious police state that denies the Syrian people the right to free speech and freedom of assembly, jails journalists and tortures dissidents. It sponsors some of the world’s most vicious terrorist groups and has assassinated numerous journalists and opponents in Lebanon. The U.N. and the cause of human rights will be severely damaged if Syria’s Assad regime wins a seat."
UN Watch called on the United States and the European Union to lead a vigorous campaign to defeat Syria’s candidacy.
Nicaragua, led by Daniel Ortega, a major Gadhafi supporter, also is seeking a seat.
Countries run for a seat in their own regions.