Russia has blocked a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the human rights situation in Syria, prompting an angry response from other UN members.
"We do not see any justification for this meeting," as human rights is not a subject within the mandate of the Security Council, Gennady Kuzmin, Russia's deputy ambassador at the UN, said after using Russia's veto on the council to block the meeting on March 19.
The move by Russia, the largest backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, comes as human rights groups say a devastating bombing campaign by Syrian allied forces has killed hundreds of civilians in the eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus, including 15 children and two women reported killed on March 19.
Russia's move to block discussion of human rights prompted a strong condemnation from the UN's human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who had been scheduled to brief the council at the blocked meeting.
"This failure to protect the lives and rights of millions of people is corroding not only the work but also the legitimacy of the UN," Zeid said.
Britain's deputy UN ambassador, Jonathan Allen, said Russia "doesn't want the truth of...the appalling human rights abuses taking place" to come out. But he said, "We mustn't let them silence us."
The council members who voted for the meeting went ahead with an informal meeting after Russia's veto.
France and six other members had called for the meeting on human rights. China, Bolivia, and Kazakhstan voted with Russia to block the meeting, while Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, and Ethiopia abstained.
Those who voted to hold the meeting alongside France were the United Kingdom, Sweden, Poland, Holland, the United States, Peru, and Kuwait. All except Kuwait later hosted the informal meeting.