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UN Human Rights Council calls special session on Syria

The UN Human Rights Council [official website] announced Wednesday that they will hold a special session [press release] this Friday to discuss the situation in Syria [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in light of last week's massacre [JURIST report] in Houla. The announcement came after a written request for the session was submitted earlier in the day by ambassadors from Qatar, Turkey, the US, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Denmark and the EU. It was also signed by 21 member states of the Council as well as 30 observer states. The session will take place in Salle XX of the Palais des Nations. The recent killings sparked international attention and criticism. After Tuesday's release of the UN report discovering that most civilians were shot at close range, numerous governments, including Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Britain, Australia, the US and Canada expelled Syrian ambassadors and diplomats in a coordinated protest. On Wednesday, UN observers discovered additional 13 bodies on Tuesday in eastern Syria. They reported that the deceased had their hands tied behind their backs and were shot in the head from close range.

The recent massacre diminished the hope for the success of the peace plan [text, PDF] that was laid out by Kofi Annan [official profile], Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the League of Arab States. Last Thursday the UN's three-member Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria released [JURIST report] a report [text, PDF] that alleged Syrian security forces as well as anti-government groups are responsible for the continuing violence in Syria including torture of children. Syria has been urged to end the escalating violence against civilians that started in March of last year. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released numerous reports alleging that Syrian government forces committed war crimes against civilians and thereby violated human rights within the last few months. In early May, HRW reported [JURIST report] such violation when government forces killed at least 95 civilians in the province of Idlib during ceasefire negotiations. In April, HRW released [JURIST report] a report showing that Syrian security forces have executed more than 100 civilians and opposition fighters.

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