Amnesty International (AI) and three other rights groups on Wednesday urged [letter, PDF; press release] the UN Security Council to renew the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) [official website], which is scheduled to end on July 20. In an open letter to the Security Council, the rights groups said 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 letter urged that an independent organization was necessary to monitor the deteriorating situation in the country where violent clashes between government forces and armed opposition groups:
In the Syrian situation, where each party to the conflict is increasingly accusing the other of human rights violations and using these accusations as justification for further violence, an independent observer force such as UNSMIS is crucial for diffusing tension and countering the dissemination of false information. The potential of UNSMIS's role in this context was seen in the aftermath of the massacre in Al-Houla, when UNSMIS's observations served as a credible source of information for the international community, bypassing contradictory reports and escalating accusations from either party of the conflict.The groups further asked that the Security Council give greater authority to the UNSMIS in its renewal resolution, noting that the current UNSMIS has had trouble gaining access to problem areas of the country. The letter was also signed by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy websites].
UN Chief Military Observer in Syria Major-General Robert Mood last week 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 [JURIST report] in a report that Syrian forces "may have been responsible" for the killing of more than 100 civilians [JURIST report] in Al-Houla in May. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, however, said earlier this month that the government had nothing to do with it [JURIST report] and that "not even monsters" would carry out those attacks. In April the UN Security Council approved a resolution [JURIST report] to send 300 unarmed soldiers and other humanitarian aid to supervise the implementation of a peace plan. This came after 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 [JURIST report], including women and children, and forcing them to walk in front of soldiers and tanks during troop movements and attacks so that opposition fighters would not shoot at them.