Twenty-one nations sign a request to hold a special meeting of the UN Human Rights Council
GENEVA (AP) — The UN’s top human rights body will hold a special session Friday on last week’s massacre of more than 100 Syrian villagers, officials said.
Two officials told The Associated Press that the UN Human Rights Council has approved a special session to address the massacre in Houla that drew international condemnation and prompted the US and at least a dozen other nations to expel Syrian diplomats on Tuesday.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the session has not yet been officially announced. The 47-nation council rarely holds such sessions but has done so several times since the Arab Spring revolutions last year to discuss dire human rights situations in Libya and Syria.
Officials said 21 nations — including European Union members, the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Denmark — signed the request that the Geneva-based council hold the session.
Action by the Human Rights Council often is used to lend weight to efforts at the UN’s most powerful body, the Security Council in New York, to demand an international response.
The United States says it remains opposed to military action in Syria, and the massacre has provoked strong global condemnation though it is unlikely to trigger a military assault similar to last year’s NATO-led campaign in Libya to oust Moammar Gadhafi.
A US State Department spokesperson has said the US will keep up pressure at the Security Council, where it holds one of five veto-wielding seats, to find ways to stop the violence by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.
The UN human rights office said Tuesday that most of the 108 victims in the town of Houla were shot at close range, including 49 children and 34 women, and entire families were gunned down in their own homes.
Last week, a UN panel of independent human rights experts said the Syrian regime and an increasingly organized rebel force are carrying out illegal killings and torturing their opponents but found that government forces are still responsible for most of the violence from the country’s uprising.
A cease-fire declared in April has been violated daily by both sides in the conflict as more than 250 UN observers based in cities around Syria scramble to monitor a peace plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.