Thursday, August 4, 2011

UN: Syria Should Heed Council’s Call to End Attacks

Access for Human Rights Investigation Key Test

Human Rights Watch
August 4, 2011

"(New York) – Syria should respond to the United Nations Security Council’s condemnation of its use of force against civilians by ending attacks on overwhelmingly peaceful protesters across the country, Human Rights Watch said today.

The Security Council on August 3, 2011, adopted unanimously a presidential statement on Syria. It “condemned the widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities,” called on the government “to respect its human rights obligations,” and deplored the “lack of progress” in reform.

“The Security Council’s unanimous statement shows that Syria can no longer count on even its close allies to support its crackdown on peaceful protesters,” said Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “President Bashar Assad needs to listen to the council’s strong message, and end the attacks by his security forces in Hama and across the country."

The Security Council was finally spurred to action following the Syrian security forces’ military assault on Hama, Syria’s fourth largest city, which started on July 31. At least 100 residents were killed in the attack, according to local human rights groups. They reported that water, electricity, and communication lines were cut in Hama in the early hours of August 3, as tanks and armored vehicles advanced toward the central Assi Square......

Syria needs to allow human rights monitors access to the country and freedom to conduct their investigation, as a starting point,” Hicks said. “Security Council members should make the council’s call for cooperation meaningful by demanding immediate access for the high commissioner’s team.”

A key sticking point in Security Council discussions over the statement was Syria’s claims that “armed gangs” were responsible for the violence. Some countries had proposed language that would have equated violence by Syrian forces with the actions of the protesters by simply calling on “all sides” to stop the violence. Instead, the Security Council explicitly condemned Syrian authorities for “widespread violations of human rights and use of force against civilians,” while calling for restraint on all sides.

There’s an easy way to check Syria’s claims about armed gangs – allow independent investigation of all parties,” Hicks said. “By refusing to allow access for the investigation mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, Syria calls into question the credibility of those claims.”....."

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