UN rights body debates call for probe in Syria
The UN Human Rights Council holds a special session on Syria on Friday where the United States is seeking condemnation of a crackdown on protests and an international probe into the violence.
The meeting, requested by 10 European nations, the United States, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Senegal and Zambia, will open at 11.00 am (0900 GMT).
A draft resolution tabled by the United States calls on the 47-member Council to agree to "urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry ... to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law" in Syria.
The proposal also "strongly condemns the killing, arrest and torture of hundreds of peaceful protesters by the Syrian government" and "stresses the need to investigate... and prosecute those responsible for attacks."
However, traditional Syrian allies such as Russia, China, Cuba, as well as Islamic countries like Malaysia and Pakistan are also members of the Council, along with other Arab states.
Campaigners said behind-the-scenes haggling was underway on the US proposal after world powers clashed over Syria in the UN Security Council.
In New York on Wednesday, Russia warned the West that "outside interference" could spark civil war, maintaning its block on condemnation of the violence along with China.
Friday's human rights council session was prompted by the Syrian government's crackdown on pro-democracy protests, which according to rights groups has led to at least 453 civilian deaths.
"The international community has been shocked by the killing of hundreds of civilians in connection with peaceful political protests in the past week," US ambassador Eileen Donahoe said after submitting the request for the meeting.
"At the special session, we expect Human Rights Council members will call on the government of Syria to meet its responsibility to protect its population and stop these attacks," she added.
Diplomats were originally mulling a Swiss proposal for a broader special session on the Middle East, but Syrian authorities' recent move against demonstrators prompted Western nations to focus on the country.
Rights activists hoped that Friday's hearing in Geneva would be a blow to Syria's candidacy for membership of the body from 2012 to 2014.
Damascus said in its bid submitted in New York on March 1 that its bid "signifies its commitment to respect and to support the inalienable and indivisible nature of all human rights."
The UN General Assembly is expected to vote on new Council members in May.
© 2011 AFP