UN human rights chief calls on Syria to halt attacks on protesters

High Commissioner Navi Pillay

25 April 2011 – The United Nations human rights chief today denounced the Syrian Government’s increasingly violent crackdown on peaceful protesters and urged an immediate end to the use of excessive force, which she noted has only intensified in recent days.

“The international community has repeatedly urged the Syrian Government to stop killing its own people, but our calls have gone unheeded,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stated in a news release.

“Instead, the Government’s response has been erratic, with paper reforms followed by violent crackdowns on protestors. Just a few days after the announcement of sweeping and important reforms, we are seeing such disregard for human life by Syrian security forces. The killings must stop immediately.”

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it has received a list naming 76 people who were killed on Friday during evidently peaceful marches, but noted that the number may be much higher.

It is looking into the reported killing of at least 13 others in funeral processions on Saturday.

“The Government has an international legal obligation to protect peaceful demonstrators and the right to peaceful protest,” said Ms. Pillay.

“The first step now is to immediately halt the use of violence, then to conduct a full and independent investigation into the killings, including the alleged killing of military and security officers, and to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a similar call on Saturday, urging the country’s authorities to stop the bloodshed and respect international human rights. He also stressed the need for an independent, transparent and effective investigation into the killings.

In a meeting with Syrian Government representatives last week, Ms. Pillay had noted the announced lifting of the decades-old state of emergency and the abolition of the dreaded High State Security Court. She had also urged the amendment of other laws that obstruct fundamental freedoms.

“The violence and ongoing repression of activists, however, indicates that either the Government is not serious about those reforms or it is unable to control its own security forces,” she noted.

The High Commissioner urged President Bashar Al-Assad and his Government to quickly implement promised reforms to “restore the people’s confidence.”


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Syria: UN chief urges end to violence and calls for credible probe into killings

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