By 33 votes to four, with nine abstentions, the council passed a resolution to "urgently dispatch an independent international commission of inquiry... to investigate alleged violations of international human rights law ... in the Syrian Arab Republic." Investigators have been asked to establish the facts and circumstances of violations and to identify the perpetrators so that they can be held accountable.
The UN rights council called the emergency session on the situation in Syria, as investigators concluded that widespread and systematic rights violations have been committed by President Bashar al-Assad's regime since peaceful demonstrations began in mid-March.
Opening the meeting on Monday, UN rights chief Navi Pillay told the council that 2,200 people had been killed since the mass protests began.
However, China, Russia and Cuba led the opposition against the council's resolution, saying that it was one-sided and politicised.
"The draft remains one-sided and politicised. It does not take into account positive steps by the Syrian leadership to stabilise the country, its willingness to engage in conversation," said a Russian diplomat.
He also charged that the resolution "is aimed at removing a legitimate government." China's envoy added that by adopting the resolution, "the council will only complicate the situation, and injure the political process in Syria." Syria's representative also dismissed the resolution as "100 per cent political." "It sends the mistaken message which poorly describes the situation," he said.
Nevertheless, the resolution received the support of all four Arab countries in the council -- Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It was also backed by countries ranging from Nigeria to Peru to the United States as well as European Union countries.
US ambassador Eileen Donahoe had said that the commission of inquiry is the "gold standard in the human rights world and we think this will send a strong message to the Assad regime that the allegations against him are very serious."
The commission of inquiry, to be appointed by the president of the Human Rights Council, would be required to report on their investigation by the end of November.