UN rights body to meet on Syria on Friday: source

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The UN Human Rights Council will hold a special session on the situation in Syria on Friday following a request by the European Union, a diplomatic source said.

"There will be a special session of the Council on the human rights situation in Syria on Friday," the European diplomat told AFP, adding that 28 countries had signed the call for the extraordinary session, the third this year.

The move follows a report published Monday by the UN-appointed investigators who found Syrian security forces had committed crimes against humanity, including the killing and torture of children, after orders from the top of Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria gathered evidence from 233 witnesses and victims on the murder, rape and torture of anti-regime protesters since a brutal crackdown began in March.

The UN estimates that at least 3,500 people have been killed since the repression began.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton called for a special session of the Human Rights Council along with the United States and several Arab countries including Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

A draft EU resolution condemns the "serious systematic violations of human rights" committed by Syrian authorities and asks that the report be submitted to the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council.

The Human Rights Council previously held special sessions on Syria on April 29 and on August 22 and 23.

"The human rights situation in Syria is grave and demands an urgent response," said a statement from the EU delegation to the UN in Geneva.

"The EU together with the co-sponsors has submitted a draft resolution of the HRC which builds on the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry and the efforts of the Arab League.

"In the light of the grave violations reported, we want the Human Rights Council to take strong action."

Among those interviewed by the commission were defectors from President Assad's security forces who told of shoot to kill orders to crush demonstrators and cases of children being tortured to death.

"The commission believes that orders to shoot and otherwise mistreat civilians originated from policies and directives issued at the highest levels of the armed forces and the government," the panel said in its report.

It said Syria had violated the right to life, to peaceful assembly and to freedom of movement among others and called on the government to put an "immediate end to gross human rights violations" and launch an independent investigation into the violence.

The panel met with regional organisations including the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League as it gathered evidence from the end of September to the middle of November but was not allowed to carry out its work inside Syria.

© 2011 AFP

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