UN rights council backs inquiry into Aleppo 'slaughterhouse'
The eastern side of the Syrian city has witnessed "crimes of historic proportions" as a result of the Russian and Syrian bombardment, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said during a special session at the 47-member council in Geneva.
A majority vote backed a resolution calling on the Commission of Inquiry to "conduct a comprehensive, independent special inquiry into the events in Aleppo".
The resolution, spearheaded by Britain, condemned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's offensive to retake east Aleppo from rebel forces while also admonishing "terrorist acts" by the Islamic State [IS] group and other extremists in the Syrian conflict.
It demanded that warring parties "in particular the Syrian authorities and their allies", allow unrestricted humanitarian access to desperate civilians and "end immediately all bombardments and military flights over Aleppo city".
It also condemned "the starvation of civilians as a means of combat" and called for the UN's existing Commission of Inquiry for Syria [COI] to "conduct a comprehensive, independent special inquiry into the events in Aleppo", and to identify individuals responsible for the most serious violations.
Assad's government has repeatedly denied COI investigators access to the country, although they have published multiple reports documenting violations.
Moscow's envoy to the council, Aleksei Goltiaev, condemned the resolution, describing criticism of Syria and Russia as "pathetic".
John Fisher of Human Rights Watch said the resolution passed at a special session on Aleppo "sent a clear message that illegal attacks on civilians must end and that those responsible will be held to account".
A so-called "humanitarian pause", initiated by Russia, has been broadly holding since Thursday in east Aleppo, where an estimated 250,000 people are besieged.
But the UN and Red Cross have not yet gained access to the rebel side of the city.
The UN had voiced hope it could begin medical evacuations on Friday before bringing in dozens of aid-filled trucks, but said the security guarantees needed to mobilise had not yet been provided.
Agencies contributed to this report.