Opening the emergency session, UN rights chief Navi Pillay told the council: “The gravity of on-going violations and the brutal attacks against the peaceful protesters in that country demand your continued attention.”
“As of today, over 2,200 people have been killed since mass protests began in mid-March, with more than 350 people reportedly killed across Syria since the beginning of Ramadan,” added Pillay. The UN had previously estimated a death toll of 2,000.
The emergency session comes after UN investigators concluded that widespread and systematic rights violations had been committed by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime since peaceful demonstrations began in mid-March.
While blocked from accessing the country, the UN mission found corroborating accounts of violations such as a “shoot-to-kill” policy, summary executions and even torture of children.
Called by 24 members of the council, including Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the meeting will consider during the course of the day a draft resolution that “deplores the continued indiscriminate attacks on its population” and seeks an immediate stop to “all acts of violence”.
The resolution also highlights the need to “urgently dispatch an independent international commission of inquiry… to investigate violations of international human rights law in Syria since July 2011”.
But the allegations were angrily rejected by Syria’s ambassador Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui, who described it as “mere lies”.
“Syria has been subjected to and continues to be subjected to an unprecedented misleading campaign carried by a number of countries in order to weaken Syria and to change its political position,” said the diplomat.
He also slammed the draft resolution, saying that “the language used is … hateful”.
“The resolution will only cause the crisis to lengthen and will only cause more instability. On this basis, we call on the council not to support the draft resolution, to maintain peace and security in Syria,” said the ambassador.
Investigators would be asked “to establish the facts and circumstances which may amount to such violations and where possible, to identify those responsible, with a view of ensuring that perpetrators of violations are held accountable”.
Monday’s meeting marks the second of its kind on Syria.
A previous session in April ordered a mission to investigate claims of violations but Assad’s regime has so far defied calls to allow investigators in.
US ambassador Eileen Donahoe said the meeting would “increase pressure on the Assad regime, to get Assad to step down and to allow the Syrian people to move forward”.
“The specific outcome we hope for is the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate facts on the ground in Syria, and to bring the Syrian authorities who are responsible for the atrocities to account.
“We believe that the establishment of the COI is the gold standard in the human rights world and we think that this will send a strong message to the Assad regime that the allegations against him are very serious,” she told journalists.
On Sunday, Assad scoffed at Western calls for his ouster, rejecting them as “worthless”.
Meanwhile, a UN humanitarian mission began its first full day in Damascus on Sunday, arriving the previous evening to assess aid needs in the wake of the crackdown.
The team, led by the head of the Geneva bureau of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Rashid Khalikov, will stay until Thursday.