Syria's violent repression of protests risks fuelling further anger - UN official

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

26 March 2011 – The United Nations human rights chief on Saturday urged Syria to listen to the voices of its people who are rising up and demanding change in the country, warning that continued killing of protesters will only lead to more anger and violence.

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.

Media reports say around 55 people have been killed in unrest in Syria over the past week, including two children.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on Syria "to draw lessons from recent events across the Middle East and North Africa which clearly demonstrate that violent repression of peaceful protest not only does not resolve the grievances of people taking to the streets, it risks creating a downward spiral of anger, violence, killings and chaos."

She pointed out that the use of force by authorities in other countries has not succeeded in quelling discontent, but only led to fuelling frustration and anger.

Indeed, she added, the use of force to suppress initial peaceful protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain only contributed to a rapid deterioration in the situation, as well as many deaths and injuries.

“If those governments had responded more thoughtfully, without violence, to the demands of the people, so much death, so much destruction, so much of the fear and uncertainty faced by ordinary people could have been averted,” said Ms. Pillay.

"The Syrian people are no different to the other populations in the region. They want to enjoy the fundamental human rights which they have been denied for so long."

She stressed the need for the Government to guarantee protesters'' legitimate rights to peaceful expression and assembly, listen and work to resolve the real issues they are raising and take rapid action to tackle the underlying human rights deficits that have led to their discontent.

On Thursday, the Syrian Government announced a set of political and economic reforms, including holding consultations on ending the state of emergency that has been in place since 1963.

Yet, the very next day the violent repression of protests by security forces continued - something Ms. Pillay found “particularly disturbing.”

"Actions speak much louder than words," she said. "To announce a package of long-overdue and very welcome reforms, and then to open fire at protestors in the streets the very next day sends diametrically opposite signals and seriously undermines trust."

The High Commissioner stressed the need for an independent, impartial and transparent investigation into the killings that have occurred recently, and called for the immediate release of all detained protesters and human rights defenders.


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