Navi Pillay - AP - 4.2.2011
South African Navanethem 'Navi' Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in February 2011. Photo by AP
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Western diplomats say several nations are negotiating for an emergency session of the UN's top human rights body to examine the government crackdowns on popular unrest that have swept the Middle East and North Africa.

Diplomats told The Associated Press on Wednesday that a special session of the
47-member UN Human Rights Council could take place in Geneva as soon as next week.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

The meeting on protecting human rights amid peaceful protests avoids publicly singling out any countries.

But diplomats confirmed that Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria would be among the nations whose violent suppression of protests would be on the agenda.

Meanwhile, the UN's top human rights official says Libyan government forces may be committing war crimes by using heavy weapons against civilians in the besieged port city of Misrata.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says forces loyal to
Muammar Gadhafi should be aware that their actions in Misrata will be scrutinized by the International Criminal Court.

"Under international law, the deliberate targeting of medical facilities is a war crime and the deliberate targeting or reckless endangerment of civilians may also amount to serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law," Pillay, a former UN war crimes judge, said.

She urged Libyan authorities to halt their siege of the city and allow medical care to reach victims.

Pillay says it is clear that the numbers are now substantial, and that the dead include women and children.