UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] at the opening of the spring session of the UN’s Human Rights Council on Monday spoke against [press release] continued war crimes and crimes against humanity occurring in Syria. Pillay expressed concern [CNN report] regarding reports that describe the slaying of entire Syrian families and shelling of communities, as well as the targeted strikes by Syrian armed forces on hospitals and schools. Pillay called for the international community to end [BBC report] what she has termed a "humanitarian disaster." In her opening speech, Pillay also recognized [Reuters report] President Obama's recent plan [JURIST report] to close Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder], but stated that the treatment and transfer of detainees must conform to international human rights law.
The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has been ongoing since 2011 when opposition groups first began protesting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [BBC profile]. The increasingly bloody nature of the conflict has put pressure on the international community to intervene. Earlier this month Pillay called for international action [JURIST report] after a series of massacres was carried out against Syrian civilians. Last month Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] condemned the Syrian Air Force for deliberately targeting civilians [JURIST report] in air strikes in rebel-controlled areas. In March Human Rights Watch accused Syria's military [JURIST report] of using widely-banned cluster bombs against civilians. In February Pillay reported that the death toll after two years [JURIST report] of armed conflict approached 70,000. In January more than 50 countries urged the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC [JURIST report].