Alarmed at Syrian bloodshed, UN rights chief demands end to brutality

Protesters in Damascus, Syria on 8 April 2011

2 August 2011 – The United Nations human rights chief today voiced alarm at reports that at least 145 people have been killed in demonstrations in Syria during the past four days and called for an end to the bloodshed, warning the country’s authorities that the world is bearing witness to the brutality against civilians.

“The Government has been trying to keep the world blind about the alarming situation in the country by refusing access to foreign journalists, independent human rights groups and to the fact-finding mission mandated by the Human Rights Council,” said Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“But they are not succeeding. The world is watching and the international community is gravely concerned. I stand in solidarity with peaceful protesters who are demanding that the persistent violation of their human rights ends now. I also stand in solidarity with the families of all the victims who have lost their lives since the crackdown began, and condemn in the strongest terms the reprehensible violence this Government is using against its own people.”

A spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, told reporters at UN Headquarters that the UN chief believed that the violence in Syria was “totally unacceptable” and felt that President Bashar al-Assad had “lost all sense of humanity.”

At least 120 individuals have reportedly been killed in the city of Hama since Friday as security forces used tanks, mortar shells and heavy machine guns against civilian demonstrators. Several other people have been killed in Deir Ez Zur, as well as the suburbs of Damascus, the capital, and other towns and cities across Syria, she said, adding that the death toll may be even higher.

“The Government has an obligation to protect its citizens. The use of force in restoring law and order must be an option of the last resort, but it appears that it is being used as a measure of first response to demonstrations in Syria,” she said.

“I again urge the Government to allow the fact-finding mission into the country to assess the situation first-hand,” she added.

In addition to the killings, there have been dozens of arbitrary detentions across Syria, including the arrest of human rights defenders, according to information received by the UN human rights office (OHCHR).

“It is high time that we work towards accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations in Syria in recent months,” said Ms. Pillay. “There is a need for an international, transparent, independent and prompt investigation into the violence, the killings, the excessive use of force, the arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment and torture that the people of Syria have been subjected to,” she added.

Since mid-March, Syria has been rocked by deadly civil unrest, driven by calls for greater civil liberties. The strife followed similar protests that toppled entrenched regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.


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