UN rights body to pressure Syria on brutal crackdown
The UN Human Rights Council will pressure the Syrian regime Monday to halt attacks and allow an independent probe into alleged violations during its brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.
The council, which meets in an emergency session, will consider a draft resolution that "deplores the continued indiscriminate attacks on its population" and seek an immediate stop to "all acts of violence."
The resolution also highlights the need to "urgently dispatch an independent international commission of inquiry... to investigate violations of international human rights law in Syria since July 2011."
Investigators would be asked "to establish the facts and circumstances which may amount to such violations and where possible, to identify those responsible, with a view of ensuring that perpetrators of violations are held accountable."
Twenty-four members of the council, including EU states, the United States and all four Arab countries -- Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, had requested the special session on Syria.
It would be the second such meeting. A previous session in April had ordered a mission to investigate claims of violations but President Bashar al-Assad's regime has so far defied calls to allow investigators in.
Though blocked from accessing the country, the mission nevertheless spoke to witnesses and reported on Thursday that it found "a pattern of human rights violations that constitutes widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population, which may amount to crimes against humanity."
US embassy spokesman David Kennedy said Monday's council session "comes as part of a much broader effort to use every available tool to confront the Assad regime and empower the Syrian public.
"We hope the special session will further demonstrate the regimes increasing isolation, strengthen the mandate of the council to report on violations of the human rights of the Syrian people, and help advance a peaceful democratic transition in Syria," said Kennedy.
More than 2,000 civilians have been killed in Damascus' crackdown since the popular uprising began in mid-March.
On Sunday, Assad scoffed at Western calls for his ouster, rejecting them as "worthless."
"While withholding comment, we tell them that their words are worthless," Assad said.
"Such remarks should not be made about a president who was chosen by the Syrian people and who was not put in office by the West, a president who was not made in the United States," he said.
Meanwhile, a UN humanitarian mission began its first full day in Damascus on Sunday, arriving the previous evening to assess aid needs in the wake of the crackdown.
The team, led by the head of the Geneva bureau of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Rashid Khalikov, will stay until August 25.
© 2011 AFP