UN Human Rights Panel Condemns Syria

Posted December 2nd, 2011 at 6:40 pm (UTC-5)
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The United Nations top human-rights body has voted to condemn Syria for “gross” and “systematic” violations of human rights during its crackdown on protest.

The resolution passed by the U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday also establishes the post of a special investigator to probe human rights abuses in Syria. However, it stops short of specifically referring Damascus to the U.N. Security Council for further action.

Thirty-seven members of the human rights body voted in favor of the action. Russia, Cuba, China and Ecuador voted against it while six nations abstained.

Shortly before the vote, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the group that a recent U.N.-backed study found that Syrian forces had applied violence equally to children and adults:

“Acts such as killing of children, by beating or shooting during demonstrations, arbitrary detention, torture and ill treatments.”

However, Syria's ambassador to the U.N. contended the report was unbalanced:

“My country's delegation would like to strongly condemn the fact that the international commission on Syria was not objective in the report that had been presented to our meeting today. In point of fact, the commission fell into the same trap as have other commissions that had preceded it.''

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington ” strongly supports” the commission's attempts to “expose the abuses by the Assad Regime.” She said the U.N. report shows the Syrian government is “willing to do anything to strangle the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.”

Meanwhile, activists say at least eight people were killed by gunfire on Friday as thousands of demonstrators urged neighboring Turkey to establish a buffer zone to protect civilians.

Separately, witnesses and activists said there has been heavy shelling in villages near Syria's border with Lebanon.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA Friday that security forces opened fire on villagers who were trying to flee into Lebanon after forces launched raids in the region.

The London-based group also says unidentified gunmen opened fire on anti-government protesters in several towns Friday, killing at least eight people.

In another development, France announced it has increased security for Syrian opposition group members who live or work in France.

French Interior Minister Claude Gueant told reporters Friday the new measures are in place for members of the opposition Syrian National Council, because “the Syrian state is violent and does not hesitate to resort to threats.”

Syria contends its actions are not a crackdown on protests, but a necessary response to attacks by “armed terrorists” on civilians and security personnel.