Human Rights Council set to condemn Syria

Human Rights Council set to condemn Syria

Assad's regime committing odious crimes, French foreign minister says

GENEVA (AP) — The UN’s top human rights body will call Tuesday for Syria to end all attacks on civilians and allow aid groups unhindered access to the city of Homs and other beleaguered areas, diplomats said Monday.

A draft UN Human Rights Council resolution obtained by The Associated Press condemns “widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities,” saying they have worsened the humanitarian situation in the country.

The resolution says the regime’s use of heavy artillery and tanks to attack civilian areas has contributed to the deaths of thousands of people since March.

Western diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter said opponents of a hard line on Syria, such as Russia, are likely to vote against the resolution when the 47-nation council holds an urgent meeting Tuesday.

“The task of the council is to express the disgust of the entire world at the odious crimes that the Syrian state is committing against its people,” Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, said at the opening of the Geneva body’s four-week session, which was dominated by the issue of Syria.

“We cannot remain silent in the face of the violence and the barbarity of the repression, the massacre of civilians, the bombing of towns, the torture of children, and wounded people being killed in hospital,” he said.

Juppe called for countries to prepare to submit a complaint against Syria to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

“The day will come when the civilian and military authorities in Syria, in particular President Assad himself, will need to answer for their actions,” he said.

Calls for Syria to be referred to the ICC will not be included in Tuesday’s resolution, but may be revisited by the council next month.

A panel of UN experts issued a report last week concluding that Syrian government officials were responsible for “crimes against humanity” committed by security forces against opposition members. The crimes included shelling civilians, executing deserters and torturing detainees. Some opposition groups, too, had committed gross abuses, it said.

The panel has compiled a confidential list of top-level Syrian officials who could face prosecution over the atrocities.

Britain’s Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne also called for those responsible for serious crimes in Syria to be held to account. But he refrained from calling outright for ICC referral.

“The mechanism by which that happens can be discussed in time, but we are absolutely certain that it should happen,” Browne told The Associated Press. He acknowledged that sending Syria to the Hague tribunal was “certainly an option” though.

Russia, which has previously used its Security Council veto to block action against Syria, would likely veto ICC referral as well.

On Monday, Russia, Iran and Cuba were the only countries to openly object to the rights council’s plan to hold an urgent human rights meeting Tuesday on Syria. Russia later relented, but maintained its opposition to any resolution condemning Syria’s leadership.

“I think the Russians are putting themselves on the wrong side of history,” Browne told the AP.

“Hundreds of people are being killed in places like Homs. Do they (Russia) feel morally comfortable with that? What are they proposing to do about it?”

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