The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] voted in an emergency session Friday to adopt a resolution strongly condemning the recent violence in Syria. The UNHRC resolution sets the stage for action by other UN bodies [CNN report] and international institutions, calling for the appointment of a special human rights investigator on Syria, the suspension of Syrian security forces suspected of human rights violations and the release of prisoners of conscience held by Syrian authorities. The eight-month uprising [JURIST news archive] challenging the autocratic rule of President Bashar Assad has resulted in a bloody government crackdown that has seen over 4,000 people killed [JURIST report], with tens of thousands arrested and over 14,000 detained. The UNHRC resolution came after the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria reported earlier this week that the Syrian government has committed numerous human rights violations [JURIST report] including torture, sexual violence, use of excessive force and violations of the right to peaceful assembly. The measure passed with 37 votes against four, with six nations abstaining. China and Russia were among the four nations voting against the resolution, citing fear of a military intervention like this year's international intercession in Libya. The Syrian ambassador told the council that the situation would be worsened by UN intervention [BBC report] and that the international community could not provide a solution to Syria's problems. Nevertheless upon passage of the resolution the UNHRC decided to send the Commission of Inquiry report to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] for action and transmission to all relevant UN bodies. The UNHRC measure has been reported as the toughest resolution ever passed by the Geneva-based council.
The Syrian government has faced numerous allegations of human rights violations since March when the first anti-government protests started. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] Friday urged [JURIST report] the UN Security Council [official website] to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] for investigation into crimes against humanity committed by the Syrian government. On Wednesday the Syrian National Council [official website], a civilian opposition group, agreed to coordinate resistance efforts with the Free Syrian Army, the main military opposition group composed of Syrian military defectors. Last week the UN General Assembly's Human Rights Committee approved [JURIST report] a draft resolution [text, PDF] condemning Syria's human rights violations and calling for their immediate end. Pillay previously called for an ICC probe [JURIST report] into the situation in Syria in August.