Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Thursday urged [press release] Syria to lift the siege on the town of Daraa and accused Syrian authorities of violating international law in attempting to quell protesters. Movement in and out of Daraa came to a halt almost two weeks ago when the Syrian army surrounded the city, cutting electricity, phone lines and internet services as well as supplies such as food and medicine. According to HRW, the siege violates Syria's international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text], which requires the Syrian government to respect "fundamental human rights" and the rule of law. The press release explained:
The Syrian government is collectively punishing the residents of Daraa because some demonstrators from the town dared protest against it. It would appear that the government has a lot to hide, because it's refusing to let Daraa residents out or independent observers in. ... Even if the Syrian army is truly 'hunting terrorists,' that is no reason to prevent the town's residents from leaving and to deny old women their medication. Syria has protested repeatedly about Israel's closure of Gaza, but it's doing the same to Daraa's residents.Additionally, HRW cited reports that the Syrian government had been engaged in a "nationwide campaign of [arbitrary] arrests" to deter protesters and activists from continuing the demonstrations. HRW alleged that these arrests also violate international law.
Syria has struggled violently to end anti-government protests which began earlier this year. Last week, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website], in an emergency special session, publicly condemned the violence used by Syrian authorities [JURIST report] against peaceful protesters. Last month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for Syria to immediately halt the killings [JURIST report] and violence against civilian protesters in response to the fatal shootings of peaceful anti-government protesters. Also last month, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [Al Jazeera profile] ended the country's 48-year-old state of emergency [JURIST report], but protests have continued.