UN prolongs probe into Syrian rights violations

22nd March 2013, Comments 0 comments

The UN on Friday lamented the escalating violence in Syria and extended a probe into widespread human rights violations in the war-torn country.

The 47-member UN Human Rights Council adopted with an overwhelming majority a resolution extending the mandate of a commission of enquiry created by the council in 2011 for another year.

The resolution, submitted by Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates, also demanded that the regime in Damascus "cooperate fully" with the investigation team and give it "immediate, full and unfettered access throughout the Syrian Arab Republic."

Adopted with 41 votes in favour, one opposed and five countries abstaining, the resolution said the commission should continue "to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law."

Unable to enter Syria, the commission has interviewed over 1,500 refugees and exiles as a basis for its reports, in which it charges that the government forces and opposition forces have carried out war crimes in Syria.

Syrian ambassador to the UN in Geneva Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui blasted the resolution, which he described as "an aberration" that was providing "political and moral cover for terrorism."

Venezuela was the only council member to oppose the resolution, insisting the text was "unbalanced" and was serving as a tool of "imperialist powers that are endeavouring to make changes to the Syrian regime."

China and Russia have in the past also rejected similar resolutions on Syria, but both recently lost their membership in the council, where member countries are elected for a three-year period.

Most country representatives who took the floor meanwhile strongly supported the resolution, with US ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe for instance insisting that "those responsible for crimes against the Syrian people must be held accountable."

Syrian President "Basher al-Assad ... has lost all legitimacy and must step aside," she said.

The commission of enquiry has repeatedly urged the deadlocked UN Security Council to refer Syrian violations to the International Criminal Court.

Friday's resolution also emphasised the possible "relevance of referrals to international criminal justice," but stressed that the Syrian people themselves should be allowed to decide which mechanisms to use "to achieve justice, reconciliation, truth and accountability.

The resolution strongly condemned abuses carried out by both sides, but noted that those "committed by anti-government armed groups did not reach the intensity and scale of the violations committed by the government forces and its affiliated militia."

The United Nations estimates that more than 70,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict that began with peaceful protests in mid-March 2011 but quickly became an armed insurgency after a harsh regime crackdown on dissent.

© 2013 AFP

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