GENEVA: The UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday ordered a probe into violations committed by the Syrian regime during its crackdown on popular protests.
By 33 votes to four, with nine abstentions, the council passed a resolution to "urgently dispatch an independent international commission of inquiry… to investigate alleged violations of international human rights law … in the Syrian Arab Republic."
Investigators have been asked to establish the facts and circumstances of violations and to identify the perpetrators so that they can be held accountable.
The UN rights council called the emergency session on the situation in Syria, as investigators concluded that widespread and systematic rights violations have been committed by President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime since peaceful demonstrations began in mid-March.
Opening the meeting on Monday, UN rights chief Navi Pillay told the council that 2,200 people had been killed since the mass protests began.
However, China, Russia and Cuba led the opposition against the council’s resolution, saying that it was one-sided and politicized.
"The draft remains one-sided and politicized. It does not take into account positive steps by the Syrian leadership to stabilize the country, its willingness to engage in conversation," said a Russian diplomat.
He also charged that the resolution "is aimed at removing a legitimate government."
China’s envoy added that by adopting the resolution, "the council will only complicate the situation, and injure the political process in Syria."
Syria’s representative also dismissed the resolution as "100 percent political."
"It sends the mistaken message which poorly describes the situation," he said.
Nevertheless, the resolution received the support of all four Arab countries in the council — Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It was also backed by countries ranging from Nigeria to Peru to the United States as well as European Union countries.
US ambassador Eileen Donahoe had said that the commission of inquiry is the "gold standard in the human rights world and we think this will send a strong message to the Assad regime that the allegations against him are very serious."
The commission of inquiry, to be appointed by the president of the Human Rights Council, would be required to report on their investigation by the end of November.
The probe would be the second ordered by the council, an April session having already commissioned an investigation into the situation in Syria.
However, that team was blocked from entering Syria, and had therefore to base its probe on interviews of people in and out of the country, as well as on videos, photos and written communications.
It concluded that there were corroborating accounts of serious violations such as a "shoot-to-kill" policy, summary executions and restricted access to medical facilities.
On Monday, Syria’s envoy said that UN investigators would be allowed in, but only after the "independent Syrian judicial commission has completed its work."