UN rights council condemns 'gross violations' in Syria
The UN Human Rights Council on Friday urged tougher international action against Syria, condemning "gross violations" of human rights following evidence security forces killed and tortured dissidents.
Rights council members in Geneva passed a resolution "strongly condemning the continued widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities" while referring a report on the abuses to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
The meeting was called to address the findings of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, appointed by the Human Rights Council earlier this year, which said 307 children had been killed since the March crackdown.
The resolution recommends that the main UN bodies consider the report although explicit reference in the draft version to the General Assembly and the UN Security Council -- the organisation's most powerful branch -- was omitted.
The council also agreed to create a special rapporteur to further investigate the human rights situation in Syria.
Thirty-seven voted in favour of the resolution, six abstained while four countries -- Russia, Cuba, Ecuador and China -- voted against.
The UN estimates that more than 4,000 people have been killed in the repression, which High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned at the opening of the emergency session could drive Syria to civil war.
Pillay, whose role is seperate from the inter-governmental rights council, has recommended that the situation be referred to the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC).
Human Rights Watch in Geneva said it regretted that the council had stopped short of seeking Security Council support so that observers could gain access to Syria.
The commission was not allowed entry to the country and based its report on interviews with 223 victims and witnesses made carried out elsewhere and via Skype.
"States that stood in the way of asking the Security Council to take such steps and to refer this situation to the International Criminal Court need to explain to the Syrian people what they intend to do to stop the abuses," said spokesman Philippe Dam.
"Standing by when crimes against humanity are occurring just shouldn't be an option."
The three-member panel said Syrian security forces committed crimes against humanity, including the killing and torture of children, after orders from the top of Bashar al-Assad's regime.
The United States ambassador Eileen Chamberlain described the situation as one of "slaughter" in her address to the meeting, the third called to discuss Syria since the repression began.
The European Union had said those guilty of abuses must be prosecuted.
"Perpetrators of the human rights violations must be held to account, in particular those who committed crimes that may warrant the attention of the International Criminal Court," said Poland ambassador Remigiusz Henczel, representing the EU as its current chair.
"This report deserves full consideration not only by this council, but by all relevant UN bodies, including the Security Council," he said before the vote.
Russian ambassador Valery Loshchinin said the global community had been given a "one-sided" report of events in Syria.
"We would like to warn against illegal interference by outside forces even under the pretext of protecting civilians and human rights," he said.
"The global community has been given a one-sided, biased and frequently tendentious presentation of events in Syria.
"This is unfortunately a defect of the report of the commission which does not reflect the true situation."
© 2011 AFP