UN rights council postpones vote on Syria resolution

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The UN Human Rights Council on Friday postponed voting on a British resolution condemning the crisis in Syria’s besieged rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta, after members-states failed to agree on a final text.

The British draft introduced at an emergency council session calls for immediate humanitarian access to the area, where a controversial truce unilaterally declared by Damascus-ally Russia has been unable to produce a breakthrough.

The draft also instructs war crimes investigators from the UN-backed Commission of Inquiry for Syria to conduct an investigation into alleged atrocities in the area, battered by a Russia-backed regime assault that began on February 18.

The British text specifically condemns “the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian authorities against civilians in the Syrian Arab Republic, including against the people living in Eastern Ghouta”.

The proposal, perhaps unsurprisingly, faced opposition.

Russia does not currently hold a seat on the council -- which has 47 members rotating on three-year terms -- but it took the floor as an observer state to condemn the text, as did the Damascus government.

Crimes against humanity

The session opened with speech from UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who said that “what we are seeing, in Eastern Ghouta and elsewhere in Syria, are likely war crimes, and potentially crimes against humanity.”

He also warned the perpetrators that they will not “get away with this.”

“The wheels of justice may be slow, but they do grind”, Zeid said, reiterating his call for the Syrian conflict to be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Dozens of nations and multiple civil society groups took the floor to speak out about the crisis affecting some 400,000 civilians in Eastern Ghouta, subjected to a government siege since 2013.

After multiple amendments were proposed to the British text, the council’s rotating president, Vijoslav Suc of Slovenia, was forced to postpone a vote until Monday.