Human rights chief slams Security Council for inaction on Syria

By Rodrigo Campos UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations' human rights chief slammed the Security Council on Monday for failing to "defend human rights and prevent further loss of life" as the war in Syria that has killed nearly half a million people enters its eighth year. "The Syrian conflict has been characterized by its absolute disregard for even the most minimal standards of principle and law," said Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. Saying that many who had sought to document human rights violations had been detained, tortured or killed, Zeid said: "The Security Council has not lived up to the sacrifice of these heroes throughout Syria. It has not taken decisive action to defend human rights and prevent further loss of life." The high commissioner for human rights spoke at an informal meeting at the United Nations shortly after his expected briefing to the Security Council was blocked when Russia requested a procedural vote. The 15 members of the council attended the informal meeting. Zeid was critical of the use of veto powers in the council to shield "perpetrators of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria and elsewhere" from justice. Russia, the largest international backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has used its veto power nearly a dozen times on possible Security Council action on Syria since the country’s civil war began in 2011. "This failure to protect the lives and rights of millions of people is corroding not only the work but also the legitimacy of the U.N.," said Zeid. (Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Peter Cooney)