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UN rights body to quiz Syria over massacre

By Reuters 31 May 2012

The U.N. Human Rights Council will tackle last week's massacre of 108 civilians in Syria at a special session on Friday, the fourth in a series of emergency debates that have had little impact since the country's crisis erupted more than a year ago. By Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles 

The council will debate the “deteriorating human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic and the recent killings in El-Houleh”, the U.N. human rights office said in a statement, using an alternative spelling for the town of Houla.

The request for a special session was made by Qatar, Turkey, the United States, Kuwait, Denmark and the European Union and supported by 21 members and 30 observer states of the council. Sixteen names are needed to convene such a meeting.

The ambassadors of China and Russia, which have resisted calls for sanctions on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, were not among the supporters.

A spokesman for the U.S. mission in Geneva said the session would “shine a spotlight on the massacre of innocent victims.”

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the massacre and will continue to work with the international community to intensify pressure on the Assad regime, identify the perpetrators of this atrocity and hold them to account,” he said in an emailed statement.

Diplomats said that before the meeting some members would draft a text condemning Friday’s massacre and demanding further investigation into the killings.

The massacre, a clear breach of an April 12 ceasefire deal brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan, has prompted many Western nations to expel Syria’s envoys from their capitals, a move that Russia said was counterproductive.

The European Union is likely to press the Human Rights Council to recommend that the U.N. Security Council refer the Houla case to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“It should be a strong, robust resolution because what has happened is just intolerable,” one EU diplomat said.

China and Russia, which have the power to veto any U.N. sanctions against Syria, have refused to blame forces loyal to Assad for the Houla killings, so the widespread outrage is unlikely to translate into tough action against the Syrian government.

Nor has the bloodshed stopped. On Wednesday, U.N. observers said they had discovered 13 bodies of people who had been tied up and shot. Activists said they were defectors killed by Assad’s forces.

In the Human Rights Council’s last urgent Syria debate in March, 41 of 47 members backed a resolution criticising Syria while only Russia, China and Cuba voted against.

A month earlier, Syria’s ambassador stormed out of the Council during an emergency debate, accusing foreign countries of inciting sectarianism and providing arms to the opposition in Syria. DM

 

Photo: Demonstrators protest against Syria’s President Bashar al-assad as they hold posters of men who they say were killed by pro-government security, in Dael near Deraa May 28, 2012. REUTERS/Shaam News Network/

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"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason." ~ Thomas Paine

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