GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations Human Rights Council condemned Syria on Friday for last week’s massacre in the Houla region and called for a U.N. investigation to identify the perpetrators and gather evidence for possible criminal prosecution.
The 47-member forum, which held an emergency session in Geneva, adopted a resolution by a vote of 41 states in favour to 3 against – China, Cuba and Russia – with two abstentions and one delegation absent.
The resolution was put forward by Qatar, Turkey and the United States amid international outrage at the killing of 108 people, nearly half of them children, in Houla a week ago.
But Syria’s delegation accused “terrorists” of carrying out the killings – its term for anti-government rebels – and rejected the text as politically motivated interference. It said its own investigation was under way.
“The perpetrators will be brought to the courts and will not go unpunished,” Syrian diplomat Tamim Madani told the meeting before the vote. “Voting for this resolution is tantamount to killing the victims again.”
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Syrian forces and pro-government militiamen accused of committing the slaughter could face prosecution for crimes against humanity, in a speech read out on her behalf.
Pillay called again for the Security Council to refer Syria to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
But Russia and China, which dismissed the text as “unbalanced”, said that U.N. observers were already probing the massacre and there was no need for duplication.
“Russia is seriously concerned at attempts by some countries before hearing results of the (U.N. observers’) mission to already determine who the guilty are and thereby exercise pressure on the Security Council and use this tragedy only in unilateral interest to undermine the Annan peace plan,” Russia’s ambassador Alexei Borodavkin told the meeting.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles; Editing by Kevin Liffey)