More than 5,000 people have now been killed in the government crackdown in Syria, UN rights chief Navi Pillay said Monday calling on the UN Security Council to launch a crimes against humanity case.
Pillay told the Security Council of reports of increased attacks by opposition groups on President Bashar Al-Assad's forces but also highlighted "alarming" events in the besieged protest city of Homs.
Her private briefing to the 15-nation council—where Russia and China blocked a resolution condemning Assad in October—heightened divisions over how to respond to the Syria troubles.
France's UN envoy said the council was "morally responsible" for the daily deaths by staying silent.
Russia, a key ally of Syria, retorted that the Western nations only want "regime change".
Pillay told reporters after the meeting that she had given the new toll of more than 5,000 dead—including more than 300 children—and recommended Assad's crackdown be referred to the International Criminal Court.
"The widespread and systematic nature of the killings, the detentions and the acts of torture—I felt that these acts constituted crimes against humanity," Pillay said.
She told the council that more than 14,000 people have been detained and 12,400 have fled into neighbouring countries since protests erupted in March.
The situation in Syria has become "intolerable," Pillay told UN envoys.
As Syria is not a signatory to the ICC statute, only the Security Council could refer the case to the tribunal, as it did in the case of Libya this year.
"Inaction by the international community will embolden Syrian authorities, and ensure perpetrators go unpunished," Pillay said.
Syrian protesters have remained largely peaceful, Pillay told the meeting. "However, reports of armed attacks by opposition forces, including the so-called Free Syrian Army, against Syrian forces have increased."
Pillay described "alarming reports" from Homs where she said an 18-month-old and a five-year-old was among children killed by sniper fire at the weekend.
Soldiers, tanks and artillery moved into residential areas on Sunday and trenches have been dug around the city, she said.
The Security Council meeting came as Western nations step up pressure to condemn Assad's campaign. "I think it is necessary that those countries in the Security Council which are still hesitating change their mind," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said after meeting Pillay.
Among council members, Russia, China, India, South Africa, and Brazil opposed or had strong reservations about the resolution proposed in October, which they said could be a first step in a western campaign for regime change.
French UN envoy Gerard Araud said the Security Council is "morally responsible" for deaths in Syria because of its failure to act. "France and other members of the Security Council consider that the silence of the council is a scandal," he said.
Britain, France, Germany, Portugal and the United States are waiting for the result of Arab League meetings on Syria in coming days to decide their next UN move, diplomats said.
However Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin hit out at the West's motives in calling for action.
Churkin said that since the council passed a statement on Syria on 3 August, events had seen the West "switch gears and turn into regime-change mode, discouraging dialogue" in Syria.
"In fact they make no secret of the fact that they want regime change. In numerous statements you can trace their policy, which cannot be conducive to a political process," he said.
NATO has strongly denied any plan for military action in Syria.