Last Updated: Mon Feb 27, 2012 18:15 pm (KSA) 15:15 pm (GMT)

U.N. rights forum to hold debate on Syria

The U.N. Security Council reached deadlock on Syria when Russia and China vetoed a resolution condemning the government’s bloody crackdown. (Reuters)
The U.N. Security Council reached deadlock on Syria when Russia and China vetoed a resolution condemning the government’s bloody crackdown. (Reuters)

The top United Nations human rights forum will hold an urgent debate on Tuesday on the deteriorating situation in Syria after Russia said it had no formal objections but warned that any written record of the talks would be “counterproductive.”

Qatar marked the opening of the Human Rights Council’s annual four-week session on Monday by asking for an urgent debate on Syria, a request that was backed by most Arab League members, as well as the European Union and the United States.

Iran raised objections to holding an emergency debate on the violence engulfing its ally. Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi will address the talks later in the day but, as an observer, Iran could not block consensus at the 47-member forum.

Russia’s delegation said that it did not believe that the debate was necessary after three previous special sessions on the crisis but later said it would go along with the consensus.

“We will not object to holding a special meeting of the Human Rights Council to discuss the situation in Syria. At the same time we call on all interested delegations to ensure that the discussions are held in as a constructive and depolarized manner as possible,” Russian diplomat Marina Korunova said.

“We continue to believe that any record of the meeting in the form of a written document would not be useful and it would be counterproductive,” she said.

A resolution passed by the main U.N. human rights forum would have no practical impact. The U.N. Security Council reached deadlock on Syria when Russia and China vetoed a resolution condemning the government’s bloody crackdown.

Arab and Western states want fresh condemnation of Syrian forces’ suppression of protests that began nearly a year ago.

Syrian artillery pummelled rebel-held areas of Homs again on Monday, hours before the government was expected to announce that a referendum - decried as a sham by the opposition and the West - had approved a new constitution proposed by President Bashar al-Assad.

“We hope that the objective of the meeting is not to establish a pretext for a military action and armed attack of the main powers against the territorial integrity and against the sovereignty of the Syrian people,” Cuba’s ambassador Rodolfo Reyes Rodriguez said.

“The situation in Syria requires a solution, but not necessarily that which the powers wish to impose,” he said.

The Council’s president, Uruguay’s ambassador Laura Dupuy Lasserre, called for the debate to send a “strong and unanimous message from the international community condemning the violence and repression by force of dissent and of the civilian population in general.”

“We ask all delegations to ensure that we can hold a constructive debate on such an important and urgent issue,” she said.

Independent rights investigators, in a U.N. report issued last week, said Syrian forces had shot dead unarmed women and children, shelled residential areas and tortured wounded protesters in hospital under orders from the “highest level” of army and government officials.

Britain’s Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne, in a speech to the talks on Monday, called for the Council to extend the commission’s mandate so it could continue its probe.

He voiced concern that opposition forces were also committing human rights abuses, albeit on a much smaller scale.

“Those responsible for the terrible atrocities should be in no doubt they will be personally held to account,” Browne said.

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