Syria forces may be committing crimes against humanity: UN report

[JURIST] Syrian government forces cracking down on the opposition may be committing crimes against humanity, according to a report [text, PDF; press release] published Thursday by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website]. The 22-page report, prepared by the the Fact-finding Mission on Syria, contains allegations of summary executions, killing of unarmed protesters and torture of detainees. According to the report, "[t]he Mission found a pattern of human rights violations that constitutes widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population, which may amount to crimes against humanity as provided for in article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court." The Fact-finding Mission recommended that the UN Security Council refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official websites] for further investigation. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] is set to address the Security Council later Thursday, and the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) [official website] will hold a special session on Syria [press release] on Monday.

The Fact-finding Mission was established [JURIST report] by the HRC in April. Last week, 27 rights groups called for the HRC to convene a second special session on Syria [JURIST report]. Also last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that an unknown Western country is funding an investigation [JURIST report] into Syria's recent human rights abuses. Last month, two UN rights officials expressed concern over reports of violence [JURIST report] used by Syrian authorities against the country's own people. Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide Francis Deng and Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect Edward Luck said that reports of Syrian forces killing or arbitrarily arresting peaceful protesters indicate potentially grievous violations of international human rights laws, and urged officials to adhere to the government's 2005 pledge to protect its citizens. In June, the OHCHR published a preliminary report [JURIST report] 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.

 

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