August 23rd, 2011
01:20 PM ET

Syrian activists form a 'national council'

By CNN Wires Staff

Syrian dissidents have formed a national council to lead the opposition to Bashar al-Assad's regime, opposition members meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, said Tuesday.

This appears to be one of several opposition movements and parties claiming to represent the Syrian opposition inside and outside Syria.

Their goal is to have 120 members, 60 exiles and 60 activists from inside Syria and they aim to announce the names on the council in 15 days.

The group has denounced the al-Assad regime. They are inviting representatives of all ethnic and sectarian communities to join them.

They want to establish a democratic system but stressed the need to be independent of foreign interference.

Asked by CNN whether the current events in Libya offer any lessons to the Syrian opposition, Syrian National Council member Luey Safi said "we are very happy to see the Libyan people able to achieve the freedom they want."

However, Safi said the group doesn't want Syria to go the same way as Libya in its effort to build a democracy, a reference to the civil warfare raging in the North African country.

"We are insisting on peaceful protests. And hope the Syrian people will adopt this approach," Safi said.

Also on Tuesday, the U.N. Human Rights Council passed a resolution to launch an inquiry into human rights violations in Syria, amid growing international pressure over the Syrian government's crackdown on protests.

It also called for an end to all violence and deplored the "continued grave and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities."

The resolution passed Tuesday on a 33-to-4 vote, with 9 abstentions.

The council also took up the report of the fact-finding mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The report "outlined a litany of government abuses ranging from murder, enforced disappearances, deprivation of liberty and the torture even of children to an apparent 'shoot-to-kill' policy against protesters with snipers posted on rooftops."

The investigation ordered by the council on Tuesday "will investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law since March 2011, and establish the facts and circumstances that may amount to such violations and of the crimes perpetrated."

The agency will attempt to make sure that "perpetrators of violations, including those that may constitute crimes against humanity, are held accountable."

A U.N. humanitarian team at present is in Syria to assess civilian humanitarian needs, such as food and medicine.

These developments come a day after the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said more than 2,200 people have been killed in Syria since mid-March, with more than 350 people reportedly killed since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The European Union on Tuesday adopted a decision to add 15 Syrian individuals and five entities to its asset freeze and travel ban list.

The EU started work on a proposal to bar Syrian crude oil and that will be under discussion through the week, said Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. Last week, the EU's political and security committee proposed an embargo last week and it will be examined by a committee of experts.

CNN's Ivan Watson, Per Nyberg and Joe Sterling contributed to this story

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Filed under: Arab Spring • Syria • United Nations
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