UN rights council adopts resolution on Eastern Ghouta


The UN Human Rights Council on Monday adopted a resolution on Eastern Ghouta after omitting the call for accountability of the "war crimes and crimes against humanity" from the final text of the draft.

The resolution -- adopted by a vote of 29 in favor, 4 against and 14 abstentions -- called for full and immediate implementation of at least 30-day cease-fire agreement in Syria, accountability for human rights violations and condemned the sustained denial of humanitarian access to Eastern Ghouta.

China, Cuba, Venezuela and Burundi voted against the resolution in the council which is made of 47 member states.

Eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb, has been under siege for the last five years and humanitarian access to the area, which is home to some 400,000 people, has been completely cut off.

In the past eight months, forces of the Bashar al-Assad regime have intensified their siege of Eastern Ghouta, making it nearly impossible for food or medicine to get into the district and leaving thousands of patients in need of treatment.

On Feb. 24, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a 30-day cease-fire in Syria without delay.

Today's resolution condemned the repeated attacks on medical facilities and civilian infrastructure, the indiscriminate use of heavy weapons and aerial bombardments on civilians, and the alleged use of chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta.

It also reaffirmed its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria.

The resolution called on all parties -- particularly Assad regime -- to allow safe, unimpeded and sustained access by the UN to all people in need, including immediate access for aid deliveries and medical evacuations to and from Eastern Ghouta, and the protection of medical and other humanitarian personnel, facilities and transport.

It also requested the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, upon renewal of its mandate, to urgently conduct a comprehensive and independent inquiry into the recent events in Eastern Ghouta.

On Friday, the UN human rights chief said war crimes and crimes against humanity had likely been committed in Eastern Ghouta and elsewhere in Syria and had to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

"What we are seeing, in Eastern Ghouta and elsewhere in Syria, are likely war crimes, and potentially crimes against humanity," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said in a meeting on the situation in the besieged Damascus suburb at the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

"Syria must be referred to the International Criminal Court. Attempts to thwart justice, and shield these criminals, are disgraceful," he added.

The Syrian regime, Russia, China and several other countries had opposed the holding of such a debate at the UN Human Rights Council whereas the U.S., U.K., EU countries, and Turkey supported the urgent debate on Eastern Ghouta.

Russia rejected the meeting arguing it was "useless and counter-productive".

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