UN rights forum to hold urgent session on Syria
UN Human Rights Council will hold an emergency session on the deteriorating situation in Syria.
Geneva: The UN Human Rights Council will hold an emergency session on the deteriorating situation in Syria on Friday, after enough states backed a US request, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
The US request to convene a special session of the 47-member Geneva forum was endorsed by 16 member states including Britain, France, Japan and the United States, UN officials said in a statement.
No Arab countries were among those requesting the session, which requires endorsement by one-third of the forum's membership to convene. Arab diplomats to the United Nations were holding closed-door talks on the issue in Geneva, according to UN sources.
US officials in Geneva were not immediately available to comment on what resolution they might put forward for action at the meeting.
Emergency sessions in recent months have launched investigations into alleged human rights violations in Libya and Ivory Coast.
A convoy of at least 30 Syrian army tanks was seen being transported on tank carriers on the Damascus circular highway on Wednesday, a witness told Reuters.
They were heading in the direction of the northern suburb of Douma and to the southern city of Deraa, where President Bashar al-Assad sent forces to crush peaceful protests against his 11-year autocratic rule, according to the witness.
The death toll in almost six weeks of pro-democracy protests in the country has risen to 453 civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on Monday for Syria to rein in security forces and investigate the killings of at least 100 protestors over the weekend.
Pillay, a former UN war crimes judge, also urged Assad and his government to implement promised reforms and release detained activists and political prisoners.
Assad lifted Syria's 48-year state of emergency last week.
Pillay described the Syrian government's response to the unrest as "paper reforms followed by violent crackdowns on protestors".
The Human Rights Council has held 15 emergency sessions since it was set up nearly five years ago. They included six called by Arab states to examine alleged human rights violations by Israel in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.
The Council also held a special session on Libya on Feb. 25 which condemned violence by Libyan forces against protestors and launched an investigation into atrocities.
During that session, Tripoli's envoy announced Libya's entire delegation in Geneva was switching sides and backing the rebels.