Renowned former war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte is to join the UN probe into rights abuses during the increasingly brutal conflict in Syria, the UN Human Rights Council announced Friday.
"The situation on the ground has shown no signs of improvement," council president Laura Dupuy Lasserre said at a meeting in Geneva.
"I would like to recommend the Commission of Inquiry be strengthened with the appointment of two additional commissioners: Carla Del Ponte and Vitit Muntarbhorn."
Both Del Ponte and Muntarbhorn had "a long track record" and were "recognised at the highest level internationally," Lasserre said. "I hope they will contribute to carrying out the mandate entrusted to them."
Until now the UN inquiry comprised two members, president Paulo Sergio Pinheiro from Brazil, and US diplomat Karen Koning AbuZayd.
The announcement came after the UN rights assembly voted overwhelmingly to an extension of the probe into rights violations in Syria, condemning the "increasing number of massacres" in the country after 18 months of bloodshed.
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Del Ponte, a Swiss national, served as chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia until January 2008 and before that for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
"Referring to such a strong and well-known personality gives a clear message that justice is coming for the Syrian criminals," a Western diplomat at the UN in Geneva told AFP.
Muntarbhorn, 60, was the UN special rapporteur for North Korea from 2004-2010 and also served as special rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography from 1990-1994.
Out of the council's 47 members, 41 voted in favour of the resolution allowing the investigators to continue with their probe into rights abuses in Syria -- with Russia, China and Cuba notable opponents.
The commission "has to make do with rumours and fabricated data," said Russia's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Alexey Borodavkin.
"We therefore call upon the commission to act objectively and in a non-biased way and to use the facts and avoid the actions of the commission intensifying the conflict in Syria."
In its latest report published last month, the commission of inquiry accused the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and to a lesser extent rebel forces of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.