Keep up pressure over Syria, urges UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon


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The Independent Online

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the world's foremost human rights body to keep up the pressure on major powers to end the civil war and rights abuses in Syria.

At the opening of the UN Human Rights Council's month-long session, Mr Ban told diplomats that he was "deeply troubled by the aerial bombardments of civilians by government forces; by the increasing sectarian tensions; by the deteriorating humanitarian situation; and by the apparent choice of both sides to pursue a solution through force rather than dialogue."

The UN chief called on all nations, including the 47 that are members of the Geneva-based council, to unite behind the efforts of his special envoy to Syria, but also to "maintain its vigilance on Syria, including on the question of accountability" for suspected abuses.

Syria's UN ambassador, Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui, after listening to the speeches from Mr Ban and the UN's top human rights official, Navi Pillay, said sauthorisehe was pleased that they had mentioned suspected human rights abuses on both sides, not just the Syrian government.

Mr Ban told the council that it should apply pressure of its own to the situation, independent of the more powerful New York-based Security Council that can impose financial sanctions and authorize peacekeeping missions and even military action.

An independent panel set up by the Human Rights Council to look into rights abuses in Syria had recommended that the council's president forward its report to Mr Ban, who could bring it to the attention of the Security Council.

Meanwhile Ms Pillay called on the international community "to overcome divisions and work to end the violence and human rights violations" in Syria including attacks on UN observers and staff.

Russia and China, two of the five veto-wielding permanent members on that 15-nation council, have effectively blocked major powers from responding in a coordinated fashion to the Syria crisis.

The panel's report could be used by world powers to justify tougher outside action against Syria, or strengthen calls for an international investigation and prosecution of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity. Ban seemed to support that approach.