The Human Rights Council (HRC) at the weekend concluded a Special Session to examine the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and the recent killings in El Houleh in which it adopted a resolution condemning the violence and ongoing human rights violations in Syria; requesting the Commission of Inquiry to hold a special inquiry into the events in El Houleh; and inviting the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States to brief the Council at its twentieth session.
In the resolution, adopted by 41 votes in favour, three votes against and two abstentions, the HRC condemned in the strongest possible terms the outrageous use of force against the civilian population, and condemned in the harshest terms the outrageous killing of 49 children, all under the age of 10 years. The Council deplored that the recent killings in El Houleh occurred in a context of continued human rights violations in Syria, including ongoing arbitrary detentions, hindered access for the media, and restrictions of the right to peaceful assembly. The Council deplored the recent killings in El Houleh and emphasized the continued failure of the Syrian authorities to protect and promote the rights of all Syrians, including through systematic and repeated violations of human rights. The resolution stressed the need to conduct an international, transparent, independent and prompt investigation into violations of international law with a view to hold to account those responsible for widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations, including violations that may amount to crimes against humanity.
The Council requested the Commission of Inquiry to urgently conduct a special inquiry into the events in El Houleh and if possible to publicly identify those who appeared responsible for the atrocities. It requested the Commission to provide a full report of the findings of its special inquiry to the HRC at its twentieth session, and to coordinate, as appropriate, with all United Nations mechanisms. The resolution also called on the Syrian authorities to immediately allow United Nations human rights mechanisms, missions and humanitarian organizations full and immediate access to all areas of Syria and called on all sides to respect the safety of humanitarian workers. It called for the six-point proposal of the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States to be immediately implemented. Finally the Joint Special Envoy, Kofi Annan, was invited to brief the HRC at its twentieth session.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the HRC’s resolution on Syria. He said: “I welcome today’s meeting of the Human Rights Council and the adoption of a resolution on Syria which Britain co-sponsored. “We believe that the acts committed by the Syrian regime may amount to crimes against humanity and other international crimes, and demonstrate a pattern of widespread and systematic attacks against civilian populations.
He went on to say: “Evidence from the UN Supervision Mission in Syria and independent witnesses has confirmed that security forces shelled the village of el-Houla and that government militia then went house to house slaughtering entire families without compassion or mercy. Mr Hague called for an urgent investigation into these atrocities and called on those responsible to be held to account. A special and independent investigation into el-Houla is essential, Mr Hague said, in order to ensure that evidence is gathered and preserved for future justice processes. “Britain will support these efforts, and will continue to prepare the ground for a referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court,” he affirmed.