Syria: UN human rights committee condemns crackdown

Syrian mourners carrying the coffin of a victim of recent violence in Tal Kalakh in the Homs province, 20 November 2011
Image caption,
Syria has continued to crack down heavily on anti-government protesters

The United Nations human rights committee has passed a resolution condemning Syria's crackdown on opposition protests.

It also called on Damascus to implement an Arab League plan to end the violence.

The resolution, drafted by Britain, France and Germany, carries moral but not legal weight.

The move comes as Syrian activists said another 33 people, including six children, had been killed across Syria.

Earlier, Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down to avoid further bloodshed.

The vote took place at the UN in New York. The three nations who drafted the resolution hope it will be a first step to bringing the issue back to the UN Security Council.

'Diplomatic war'

The latest resolution says the committee "strongly condemns the continued grave and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities, such as arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the persecution and killing of protesters and human rights defenders".

But it makes no mention of sanctions.

It was backed by Western nations and a number of Arab member states. The resolution received 122 votes in favour, 13 against and 41 abstentions.

Arab states that voted for it included co-sponsors Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar and Saudi Arabia as well as Egypt.

A previous attempt to pass a resolution in the Security Council was vetoed by Russia and China. The two countries abstained in the latest vote.

Syria's ambassador to the UN has accused the Europeans of declaring "diplomatic war" on his country.

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Mr Erdogan is the second regional leader to call on President Assad to quit

In his harshest words yet on the issue, Prime Minister Erdogan called for Mr Assad to step down as Syrian president.

It was the first time the Turkish leader had directly called for his removal from power. Last week King Abdullah of Jordan became the first regional leader to call on Mr Assad to go.

"For the welfare of your own people and the region, just leave that seat," Mr Erdogan said in a televised speech.

His comments came a day after Turkish President Abdullah Gul, speaking to the BBC, said the Syrian regime had reached a "dead end" and it was prepared for the worst-case scenario.

Turkey has allowed Syrian refugees and military defectors to take refuge on its soil, and Syria's political opposition has used Turkey as a place to meet and organise.

The UN estimates that more than 3,500 people have died since the start of the protests against Mr Assad in March.

The Syrian authorities blame the violence on armed gangs and militants.

In the latest violence, the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), an activist network, said 33 people were killed across Syria on Tuesday.

This figure included six children, the LCC said.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four boys - aged 10, 11, 13 and 15 - were "indiscriminately" gunned down in the Houla area of Homs province, while a fifth - aged six - died in Homs city.

The LCC said another eight people were killed in Homs, seven in Hama, six in Idlib, four in Daraa and three in Deir al-Zour.

Earlier, the LCC said Syrian forces backed by tanks and armoured vehicles stormed the area of Houla and were besieging the district of Bayada in Homs province, a hotbed of dissent against President Assad's regime.