Emergency Human Rights Council meeting opens

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The UN human rights chief condemned Syrian authorities' "ruthless repression" of protesters at the opening of an emergency meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday.

The special session was called by 28 member states and 40 observer countries after independent investigators found evidence security forces murdered and tortured civilians following orders from the top of the Bashar al-Assad regime.

The UN estimates 4,000 have been killed since the crackdown in March and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned on Thursday the country was on the brink of civil war.

"The Syrian authorities' continual ruthless repression, if not stopped now, can drive the country into a fully-fledged civil war," Pillay told the opening of the meeting.

"In light of the manifest failure of the Syrian authorities to protest their citizens, the international community needs to take urgent and effective measures to protect the Syrian people."

The High Commissioner repeated a call to the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

"The Commission's report reinforces that the need for international accountability has even greater urgency today," Pillay said, referring to the findings of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria published on Monday.

© 2011 AFP

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