Syria: UN envoy voices alarm at ‘excessive and lethal force’ against civilians

Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative to the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. UN Photo/E. Debebe

17 August 2011 – The United Nations envoy advocating for the rights of children during armed conflict today called on Syrian authorities to end the bloodshed that has marked this year’s violent crackdown by Government security forces against civilian protesters.

Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, issued a statement in which she said “the use of excessive and lethal force” by the security forces is “taking a heavy toll on civilian lives, including children.”

As many as 2,000 Syrians have been killed in the past five months as members of the public across the country have protested against the Government and called for greater freedoms.

The demonstrations are part of a broader uprising across North Africa and the Middle East that has led to the toppling of long-standing regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and conflict in Libya.

Last weekend Syrian military forces launched a major assault on the port city of Latakia, and dozens of people have reportedly been killed.

“We have had credible allegations of children being killed or wounded in security operations against civilians in Syria,” Ms. Coomaraswamy said.

“There are also allegations that children have been tortured by the security forces. State parties have a duty to protect children in any police or military operations and I call on the Syrian authorities to fulfil their obligations.”

The Special Representative also expressed concern about the well-being of child refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had to flee the recent violence, including Palestinian residents of a refugee camp in Latakia.

Ms. Coomaraswamy’s comments echo the concerns of other top UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and the Security Council is scheduled to discuss the latest developments in Syria tomorrow.

Amid mounting international concern at the violence in Syria, the UN has temporarily withdrawn 26 non-essential, international staff and their dependents from the country.

A UN spokesperson said the Organization normally has about 160 international personnel in Syria.


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