A United Nations watchdog group has called for Rutgers University to fire Dr. Mazen Adi, a former Syrian diplomat who defended President Bashar Assad's regime against accusations of genocide and other war crimes at the UN.
The university said it was standing by its decision to hire Adi, citing academic freedom and free speech.
Next semester, students at the New Jersey university will be able to sign up for a political science class taught by Adi titled "International Criminal Law And Anti-Corruption," CBS New York reported this week.
The UN Watch monitoring group called on the school to fire Adi "on grounds that as a Syrian diplomat and legal adviser he justified the war crimes of the genocidal Assad regime."
"While serving as a Syrian delegate and legal adviser at the UN, Mr. Adi systematically acted as an apologist for the mass murder committed by the Assad regime against his own people, helping Syria to win impunity at the UN to conduct continued war crimes," the watchdog said in a letter addressed to the university president.
A petition demanding Rutgers fire Adi has garnered 3,000 signatures in under a week.
Prior to Rutgers, Adi had served for 16 years as a Syrian diplomat, including as a legal adviser and occasional chargé d'affaires at the Syrian mission to the UN in New York.
During his tenure at the UN, Adi repeatedly defended the Assad regime against accusations it was carrying out genocide or other war crimes against its own people.
In 2014, he accused member states who spoke out against the crimes against civilians as an effort to "dominate the region and its peoples and their capacities," assuring the world body the Syrian Government "is more concerned than anyone else for its own people."
Earlier this year, the UN set up an investigative body to help document and prepare legal cases to possibly prosecute the most serious violations in Syria's war that is estimated to have left at least 400,000 dead.
Adi is also a fierce critic of Israel. In 2012, he falsely claimed to the Security Council that "international gangs led by some Israeli religious figures are now trafficking children's organs."
In response to the backlash, Rutgers said it was standing by its decision to hire Adi, citing academic freedom and free speech.
"Rutgers will not defend the content of every opinion expressed by every member of our academic community, but the university will defend their rights to academic freedom and to speak freely," a Rutgers spokesperson told the Algemeiner news website.