UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] told a General Assembly meeting on Wednesday that both Syrian and rebel forces are responsible for perpetrating widespread rights abuses across the nation. In a statement [text] accompanying his remarks, Ban noted that the situation in Syria is "grave and deteriorating" and urged both rebels and the Syrian government to "abandon military activities, engage in dialogue, protect civilians, and abide by their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law." Ban put the blame on both sides of the conflict for ratcheting up military activities saying, "government forces and the armed opposition have clearly failed to protect civilians and respect the rules of international humanitarian law." Ban also estimated that more than 1.2 million people are currently displaced within the nation while more than 225,000 refugees have been registered in surrounding nations.
Ban's statement comes on the heels of his request last week for an immediate investigation [JURIST report] into civilian deaths in Syria. On August 19 the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) [official website] ceased its work [JURIST report]. According to UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmund Mulet, the mission's work had to be stopped because the two conditions required by the UN Security Council to renew UNSMIS' mandatethe cessation of the use of heavy weapons and the reduction in violence from all sideswere not met. In mid-August the head of UNSMIS Lieutenant General Babacar Gayee expressed concern [JURIST report] about the growing number of civilian casualties in violent clashes between government forces and armed opposition groups. In July UN Chief Military Observer in Syria Major-General Robert Mood stated that Syrian authorities were committed to implementing the six-point peace agreement [JURIST report] that was reached a week earlier. In June a UN commission stated that Syrian forces may have been responsible [JURIST report] for the killing of more than 100 civilians in Al-Houla in May. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [JURIST news archive] had denied [JURIST report] the allegations stating that "not even monsters" would carry out the attacks.