The UN Security Council [official website] on Friday extended the UN monitoring mission in Syria for an additional 30 days. The mandate for the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) [official website], deployed as part of the peace plan of UN Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan [official profile], received a unanimous vote for a 30-day extension [Reuters report] in the Security Council. Amnesty International (AI) and three other rights groups had urged the UN to renew the mandate [JURIST report], stating that human rights abuses in the country are on the rise and that the UN must continue to pressure the government to improve humanitarian conditions. The UN Syria mission, approved in April, sent up to 300 unarmed military observers and other humanitarian aid [JURIST report] to supervise the implementation of a peace plan. Most of the monitoring was suspended in June due to increased risk from rising violence.
Earlier this month UN Chief Military Observer in Syria Major-General Robert Mood stated that he believed Syrian authorities were committed to implementing the peace agreement [JURIST report] that was reached earlier this month. Mood, who works with the UNSMIS, confirmed that the UN would continue to provide humanitarian support as the violence subsides, even if the UNSMIS mission is not renewed. In June the UNSMIS concluded in a report that Syrian forces "may have been responsible" for the killing of more than 100 civilians [JURIST reports] in Al-Houla in May. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [BBC backgrounder], however, said earlier that month that the government had nothing to do with the attacks [JURIST report]. In April Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report [JURIST report] stating that Syrian security forces had killed more than 100 civilians and opposition fighters in recent attacks. In March HRW also reported on and linked to videos of Syrian forces rounding up civilians for use as human shields [JURIST report], including women and children, forcing them to walk in front of soldiers and tanks during troop movements and attacks so that opposition fighters would not shoot at them.