UN rights body condemns Syria, urges aid access

The UN’s top human rights body voted Thursday to condemn Syria for its “widespread and systematic violations” against civilians in a violent crackdown on opposition groups, as more western governments closed their embassies in Damascus over worsening security.

Members of the U.N. Human Rights Council approved a resolution proposed by Turkey with 37 votes in favor and three — Russia, China and Cuba — voting against. Three members of the 47-nation body abstained and four didn’t vote.

The resolution urged Syria to immediately stop all attacks on civilians and grant unhindered access to aid groups. It also supported gathering evidence on possible crimes against humanity and other serious abuses in the fighting in Syria, so that those who committed them can be held to account at a later date.

Syria’s seat in the room remained empty during the vote, after the country’s U.N. envoy stormed out of the council Tuesday having accused the body of supporting terrorism and prolonging the crisis in his country.

The Geneva-based council’s vote carries no legal weight but diplomats consider it a strong moral signal that may encourage a similar resolution in the powerful U.N. Security Council. Russia and China have strongly opposed any such resolution in the Security Council, fearing it eventually will lead to Western military action against Syrian Presient Bashar Assad’s regime.

“Let’s hope those who voted against the resolution today can see just how isolated they are in the international community,” said Britain’s ambassador in Geneva, Peter Gooderham. “We very much hope this will have an impact in Beijing, in Moscow and of course in Damascus.”

The U.N.’s human rights office said it welcomed the “very strong endorsement” of the resolution. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay had told the council earlier that she supported referring Syria to the International Criminal Court in the The Hague over the allegations of crimes against humanity detailed in a recent U.N. report.

Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, the U.S. representative to the council, said it was crucial that so many countries had accepted that the government crackdown was the cause of Syria’s humanitarian crisis.

Source: Pakistan Observer

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