Russia, China Get Syrian Request to Investigate Houla Massacre

Russia, China and other countries received a request from the Syrian government to investigate last month’s massacre in Houla, according to a senior lawmaker in the Russian ruling party.

“There’s no proof of either the involvement of pro-government or opposition forces,” Alexei Pushkov, the head of the foreign-affairs committee in the lower house of parliament in Moscow, said in a telephone interview today. “If you listen to Western media, you hear witnesses who say pro-government militia carried it out, but if you listen to Syrian media, you hear witnesses who say that it was opposition fighters.”

The United Nations Human Rights Council called for a probe into the May 25 massacre of more than 100 people, including dozens of children, which it said was carried out by “pro-regime elements” and government forces. Syria blamed terrorists for the killings.

The timing of the Houla massacre, as well reports yesterday by opposition activists of the killing of 78 people, more than half of them women and children, in a village in Hama province, point to the involvement of rebel fighters, said Pushkov. The first massacre happened a day before United Nations envoy Kofi Annan visited Syria and the latest on the eve of UN Security Council discussions on Syria, he said.

“To carry out such acts on the eve of such events is absolutely counterproductive for the Syrian government,” Pushkov said. “To the contrary, I can see that for rebel fighters, especially Islamist rebel fighters for whom blood is cheap, as shown by experience in Afghanistan, Iraq and many other places, there is a direct political benefit.”

Syria has found evidence that fighters from Libya and Tunisia with ties to al-Qaeda are among the rebels and some of the Houla massacre was filmed, Syria’s ambassador to Russia, Riad Haddad, said in a June 1 interview.

“The main aim is to cause failure of the Annan plan and to provoke foreign military interference,” he said.