Syria: UN human rights office voices concerns about situation

25 March 2011 – The United Nations human rights office today spoke out over the worsening situation in Syria, saying it will be closely monitoring the pledge of the country’s Government to introduce political and economic reforms.

Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told reporters in Geneva that the office was concerned by the use of live ammunition and tear gas by authorities against peaceful protesters in Syria.

At least 37 people were killed in the southern town of Deraa, including two children, and media reports today indicate that more protesters have been shot dead by security forces.

“We welcome the decision to investigate the killings and reiterate our call for this investigation to be independent and impartial; those responsible for the killings must be held accountable,” Mr. Colville said.

“We also welcome the release of those associated with the protests in Deraa, and hope that all human rights defenders and political activists throughout Syria, who have also reportedly been arrested, will also be released without delay.”

The demonstrations in Syria are part of a broader protest movement that has swept the Middle East and North Africa since the start of the year, toppling long-standing regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and leading to fierce fighting in Libya.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke by telephone earlier today with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, stressing to the President that the people had expressed their democratic aspirations through peaceful means.

Mr. Ban underlined that governments have an obligation to respect and protect the fundamental rights of citizens, and urged authorities to exercise maximum restraint.

The Syrian Government announced yesterday that it would introduce a series of political and economic reforms, including holding consultations aimed at ending the state of emergency that has been in existence within the country since 1963.

Mr. Colville welcomed the news and said OHCHR “will be closely monitoring the speedy and effective implementation of such reforms.”


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