The United Nations Human Rights Council on June 1 said last week's massacre in Houla could "amount to crimes against humanity" and called for a UN inquiry to identify and prosecute the perpetrators.
In an emergency session in Geneva, the 47-member forum voted by a large majority in favor of a resolution calling on the Commission of Inquiry on Syria to "urgently conduct a comprehensive, independent and unfettered special inquiry," into Houla. China, Russia, and Cuba voted against.
The vote came after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navy Pillay called for "independent and impartial international investigations" into the Houla massacre and other abuses.
Pillay told the rights council a failure to conduct such a probe could lead to a "full-fledged conflict" in Syria and put the region in "grave danger."
Pillay said the Houla massacre "may amount to crimes against humanity and other international crimes" and "may be indicative of a pattern of widespread or systematic attacks against civilian populations that have been perpetrated with impunity" in Syria.
The Houla massacre has prompted worldwide condemnation and led many Western countries to expel Syrian diplomats.
Summarizing the reports of UN observers in Syria, Pillay told the June 1 council session that the Syrian military "allegedly unleashed a barrage" of tank and artillery fire into residential areas of Houla on May 25 that lasted 14 hours.
She said "some reports suggest that pro-government Shabiha paramilitary groups also entered Houla and may bear responsibility for dozens of killings."
UN monitors have said they strongly suspect Alawite fighters in the Shabiha militia were responsible for the summary executions of most of the 108 people killed in Houla last week.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite-dominated regime says its own military investigation determined that Sunni Muslim rebel fighters massacred Houla's Sunni villagers in a bid to ignite sectarian strife.
On May 31, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice rejected the Syrian regime's claim, calling it "another blatant lie."
However, in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry backed the Syrian government's version of events in Houla. In a statement on June 1, the ministry said the massacre was a "well-planned action by militants."
Nicolas Niemtchinow, France's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said at the start of the council meeting that there no longer should be any countries supporting Assad's regime.
"Nobody today can support this regime, which is a dictatorship that only thinks about its survival. Nobody can accept such massacres, and we hope, France hopes, that all the countries in the world will listen to what is said at the Human Rights Council," Niemtchinow said.
The UN estimated weeks ago that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in violence since the uprising against Assad's regime began in March 2011.
The London-based Syrian Observatory For Human Rights says more than 13,000 have been killed.
Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and the BBC