The top United Nations human rights body called yesterday (23 August 2011) for an immediate end to all violence in Syria and decided to dispatch an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate alleged abuses committed during the Government’s crackdown on protesters.
In a resolution adopted at the end of a two-day special session, the Geneva-based Human Rights Council also strongly condemned the “continued grave and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities.”
By a vote of 33 in favour to four against, with nine abstentions, the 47-member Council also welcomed the report of the fact-finding mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which UN human rights chief Navi Pillay presented yesterday, and expressed profound concern about its findings.
The report, which covered the period from 15 March to 15 July, outlined a litany of Government abuses ranging from murder, enforced disappearances, deprivation of liberty and the torture even of children to an apparent “shoot-to-kill” policy against protesters, with snipers posted on rooftops.
The probe ordered by the Council will investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law since March 2011, and establish the facts and circumstances that may amount to such violations and of the crimes perpetrated.
It will also, where possible, identify those responsible with a view to ensuring that perpetrators of violations, including those which may constitute crimes against humanity, are held accountable. The resolution requests that the report of the commission of inquiry be made public as soon as possible.
As many as 2,000 Syrians have been killed in the past five months since the start of the pro-democracy protests, which are part of a broader uprising across North Africa and the Middle East that has led to the toppling of long-standing regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and conflict in Libya.
A UN humanitarian team, led by Rashid Khalikov, the director of the Geneva office of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), is currently in Syria to assess such needs as food and medicine among the civilian population.
So far, the team has been to Homs and Talkalakh. It also went to Naniyas, where members visited a local school, walked down the main shopping street and spoke with the local population. It is also scheduled to visit Latakia, Aleppo and Hama during the course of its mission.
The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, meanwhile, voiced serious concern over reports that demonstrators had been killed or injured in Homs after the humanitarian mission visited the town yesterday.
“I am shocked by these reports,” said Ms. Amos, who is also the Emergency Relief Coordinator. “I call on the Syrian authorities to ensure that people are allowed to protest peacefully and in safety,” she said.