UN rights chief calls for immediate cease-fire in Syria

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile], in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council [official website] during an emergency session on Tuesday, called for an immediate end to the violence [text] in Syria. Pillay accused the Syrian forces of committing human rights violations and urged the government to stop its escalating violence against civilians. She also asked the government to support humanitarian efforts and justice for victims:

I further call upon the Government of Syria to allow independent international monitors to visit all places of detention and grant unhindered access to humanitarian actors. I also call on the Government of Syria to release all political prisoners and persons who have been arbitrarily detained. The Government must launch prompt, independent and impartial investigations in accordance with international standards to end impunity, ensure accountability, bring perpetrators to justice, and to take measures to ensure adequate, effective and prompt reparation for the victims.
Syria's UN ambassador, Fayssal al-Hamwi, walked out [SANA report] of the session after Pillay's speech. He said the meeting was not legitimate and accused the international community of arming rebel groups, using economic sanctions to hurt civilians and spreading lies about the Syrian government and the situation in the country. Also on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the French foreign ministry announced that the UN Security Council [official website] had begun drafting a resolution [Reuters report] aimed at stopping the violence in Syria and promoting humanitarian missions.

The increasing unrest in Syria has grabbed international attention. Last week, the UN-appointed Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria accused the government of violating international human rights law [JURIST report] after finding that Syrian forces are engaging in torture and killings under orders from high level government officials. Syrian officials announced Monday that over 80 percent of voters in the country approved the new constitution [JURIST report], which imposes term limits on the president and provides for a multi-party system. However, Western leaders called the referendum a "farce" and condemned [Independent report] the "sham vote" that cannot be a way of resolving the ongoing violence. Earlier this month, both Pillay and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] called for an end to the violence in Syria, with Pillay asking the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria [JURIST reports] to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Pillay urged an investigation of Syrian government and military officials for possible crimes against humanity. The OHCHR reports that more than 5,000 people have died since anti-government protests began last March.

 

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