UN rights body urges investigation of Syria abuses

[JURIST] The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official websites] on Wednesday published [press release] a preliminary report [text, PDF] describing human rights violations in Syria and calling for an investigation into government-authorized abuses related to pro-democracy protests that began earlier this year. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] instructed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] to compile a report detailing the human rights conditions in Syria from May 15 to June 15. The report indicates that, initially, protestor grievances focused on corruption, discrimination, freedom of expression, participation in public affairs and the release of political prisoners, but later shifted to concerns about deprivation of basic fundamental rights and Syrian security force protest-control tactics. Pillay's report contains allegations that Syrian security forces used live ammunition against unarmed civilians, arbitrarily detained protestors, and tortured and killed over 1,000 people. The report called for the Syrian government to permit further investigation and reflected Pillay's optimism in collecting more information about the abuses:

The material currently before the High Commissioner is a matter of grave concern and reflects a dire human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic. The alleged breaches of the most fundamental rights on such a broad scale require thorough investigation and, with respect to the perpetrators, full accountability. The fact-finding mission mandated by the Human Rights Council would contribute substantially toward these ends. The High Commissioner thus renews her call to the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic to grant the access requested. The High Commissioner is hopeful that she will be able to provide a more extensive assessment of the human rights situation in Syria in her follow-up report to the 18th session of the Human Rights Council.
The Syrian government claims that armed protestors have killed over one hundred security forces, and continues to prohibit journalists and human rights groups from investigating.

There has been a major struggle to put an end to Syrian violence since the protests began earlier this year. Most recently, the UN expressed concern [press release; JURIST report] over violence in Syria and urged the Syrian government to stop using force against protesters. In June, Syrian and international human rights groups urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to investigate the hundreds of civilian deaths during protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [Al Jazeera profile]. The UNHRC, in an emergency special session in April, publicly condemned [text, PDF; JURIST report] the violence used by Syrian authorities against peaceful protesters. Pillay 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 in April, al-Assad ended [JURIST report] the country's 48-year-old state of emergency, but protests have continued. Earlier in the same month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] 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." Pillay urged the Syrian government [JURIST report] in March 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.

 

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