Gross and systematic human rights violations around the world, including torture, arbitrary detention and disappearances will come under review by the United Nations Human Rights Council during the next four weeks.
The council meeting started with General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic appealing for an immediate end to the bloodbath in Syria.
He notes civil conflict has claimed more than 70,000 lives, caused more than 860,000 people to flee the country and millions more to become displaced within Syria. Jeremic says 20 percent of the population lacks access to fuel, electricity, a telephone line and a reliable source of food and water.
“I wish to underline my great concern at the perpetuation of the most horrific humanitarian tragedy of our times," he said. "For close to two years, the international community has failed to put a stop to the carnage. The immediate cessation of hostilities should be our foremost priority.”
Jeremic says there is a danger that violence will be allowed to run its course and warns civilians would continue to suffer the most.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay agrees with this assessment. She says impunity for international crimes must end.
But Pillay says the Security Council has failed to end the conflict in Syria, and it has not sent the case to the International Criminal Court.
“Two important situations, Darfur in 2008 and Libya in 2011, have been referred, but the Security Council has so far failed with regard to Syria, despite the repeated reports of widespread or systematic crimes and violations by my Office,” she said.
Russia and China, which are allies of Syria, have blocked Security Council resolutions to pressure President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to end the violence in his country.
Pillay may have better luck in getting the Human Rights Council to back a resolution for an international investigation of rape, torture and other abuse charges in North Korea. Observers in Geneva believe such a resolution might, for the first time in history pass, because North Korea’s staunch ally, China, as well as Russia and Cuba which usually vote as a block, are not members of the Council this year.