UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called Monday for Syria to immediately halt the killings and violence against civilian protesters. The statement follows major condemnations of the Syrian government's excessive use of lethal force and other rights violations against protesters. Syrian security forces have been responsible for fatal shootings of peaceful anti-government protesters [WP report] within the last week, including the April 22 shootings [AFP report] which resulted in more than 75 deaths. In addition to the halt, Pillay has called for a full investigation [UN News Centre report] into the recent deaths with hopes to serve justice against those ordering the shootings. The investigation is supported by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who publicly reminded [press release] Syrian authorities of their obligation "to respect international human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as the freedom of the press." UN officials hope that these immediate measures will ensure social peace and order and facilitate the development of government reforms in Syria. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] has also called for an international investigation [JURIST report] into the killings.
Last week, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [Al Jazeera profile] ended [JURIST report] the country's 48-year-old state of emergency, but protests have continued. Earlier this month, HRW reported [text] that Syrian security forces have stopped medical personnel [JURIST report], sometimes violently, from attending to injured protesters. A spokesperson for the group called the practice "both inhumane and illegal." Last month, Pillay urged the Syrian government [JURIST report] to ensure protesters' rights to peaceful expression and to work toward addressing their concerns instead of responding with violence. As demonstrations continued throughout the country in March, the government freed 260 political detainees [AFP report] in an overture to the protesters.