U.N. Rights Body Condemns Use of Foreign Fighters in Qusayr, Mulls Ordering Probe into Killings

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The U.N.'s top rights body on Wednesday voted to condemn the Syrian regime's use of foreign fighters in the besieged town of Qusayr and ordered an urgent probe into the killings in the town.

Thirty-six of the U.N. Human Rights Council's 47 member states voted in favor of the resolution that implicitly refers to the involvement of fighters from Hizbullah in the fierce battle for the strategic town.

Eight countries abstained, two refrained from voting and only Venezuela cast its vote against the resolution.

The text, which was put forward by the United States, Turkey and Qatar and which is non-binding, "condemns the intervention of foreign combatants fighting on behalf of the Syrian regime in al-Qusayr."

It goes on to express "deep concern" that the involvement of the fighters could "further exacerbate the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation".

The resolution also stressed "the need to ensure accountability for those responsible for the massacre in al-Qusayr."

The U.N. body considered opening a probe into the assault on al-Qusayr by the regime and its allies, including foreign fighters.

Hizbullah sent almost 1,700 fighters to Qusayr more than a week ago to support the regime's assault on the rebel stronghold.

Control of Qusayr is essential for the rebels as it is their principal transit point for weapons and fighters from Lebanon.

Opening the debate in Geneva, U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay decried the situation in the town, saying "the increasing number of foreign fighters crossing Syria's borders to support one side or the other" was "further fueling the sectarian violence."

"The situation is beginning to show worrying signs of destabilizing the region as a whole," she warned, amid rising concerns about Hizbullah's role in Syria.

If adopted, the draft resolution put forward by the United States, Turkey and Qatar would order an existing team of investigators to "urgently conduct a comprehensive, independent and unfettered special inquiry" into the alleged massacre of hundreds of people in Qusayr.

But a U.N. commission of inquiry on Syria tasked since 2011 with probing rights abuses across the country would likely not be able to visit the site as it has so far been barred by the regime from entering the country.

Based on interviews with more than 1,500 refugees and exiles, the commission has determined however that forces fighting for both the government and opposition have committed war crimes in Syria, where more than 94,000 people have been killed since the violence exploded in March 2011.

The resolution, first presented Tuesday, was revised to condemn all violence "irrespective of where it comes from" following criticism that it was unbalanced, since it only took issue with abuses committed by the regime's camp.

Syria's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Bashar Jaafari, nonetheless called the text "shameful", "biased" and "politically motivated".

He insisted "the town of Qusayr has seen no massacres," and blamed opposition jihadists backed by Qatar and Turkey for any abuses there.

Russian ambassador Alexey Borodavkin also called the resolution as well as the urgent debate on Syria "untimely and counterproductive".

He insisted a probe could not be independent, since all the blame for the Qusayr killings had already been laid on Damascus, and urged the council to "deny support to this dangerous and hypocritical resolution."

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the resolution was hampering international efforts to organize a Syria peace conference in Geneva next month.

U.S. ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe rejected that.

"We don't see this as... undermining in any way," she said in Geneva, insisting "the need for establishing a record on the human rights dimensions and ensuring accountability is part of a lasting peace for the future."

She said the U.S. was deeply "concerned about the dramatic increase in the role of Hizbullah inside Syria."

"Not only is this not helpful in terms of destabilizing Syria, but it also has this very serious risk of destabilizing Lebanon and destabilizing the region as a whole," Donahoe said.

Comments 3
Missing -karim_m2 29 May 2013, 21:33

"The U.N.'s top rights body on Wednesday voted to condemn the Syrian regime's use of foreign fighters..."


Missing anti_war 30 May 2013, 01:47

Correction, qusayr is a majority sunni muslim area with a catholic minority. There are a few alawite families from qusayr though but they are very few.. 90% of the qusayris are sunni muslim. Most of the remaining 10% are catholic.

Missing pipic 30 May 2013, 09:47

Wait for 2014 election to happen which is only a year away. You Syrians shall decide the president you want and not any foreign countries preference.