AI report: Syria security forces may have committed crimes against humanity

AI report: Syria security forces may have committed crimes against humanity

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[JURIST] Syria security forces may have committed crimes against humanity during an operation to suppress demonstrations in the Western town of Tell Kalakh, according to an Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] report [text, PDF; press release] published Wednesday. AI said that its investigation revealed that during a security sweep in Tell Kalakh beginning May 14, security forces conducted killings, mass arrests, arbitrary detentions and torture forcing many to flee across the border to Lebanon. AI said it was unable to gain access to Syria but interviewed families who had fled to Lebanon. AI said that every family it interviewed had at least one family member in detention. The report said:

On the basis of this and other research, Amnesty International considers that the Syrian army and security forces committed crimes and other violations during the security operation in Tell Kalakh that, when taken in the context of other crimes and human rights violations elsewhere in Syria, amount to crimes against humanity. This is because they appear to be part of a widespread, as well as systematic, attack against the civilian population involving multiple commission of a range of crimes against a multiplicity of victims in an organized manner and pursuant to a state policy to commit such an attack. These crimes include murder, torture, arbitrary detention and other severe deprivation of liberty, and other inhumane acts committed intentionally to cause great suffering or serious damage to mental or physical health.

Human rights investigators have been shut out of Syria, including a UN commission that published a preliminary report [JURIST report] alleging Syrian security forces have used live ammunition against unarmed civilians, arbitrarily detained protestors, and tortured and killed over 1,000 people. The report also calls for further investigation into violence in Syria.

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Earlier this month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] said that the recent wave of Middle East and North African protests and revolutions showed a basic need for human rights. Pillay pointed to the efforts of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] in these conflict areas: fact finding missions in Libya, Ivory Coast and Syria [JURIST report] and country offices created in Tunisia and Egypt. There has been a major struggle to put an end to Syrian violence since the protests began earlier this year. In June, Syrian and international human rights groups urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to investigate the hundreds of civilian deaths during protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [Al Jazeera profile]. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website], in an emergency special session in April, publicly condemned [text, PDF; JURIST report] the violence used by Syrian authorities against peaceful protesters. Pillay called for Syria to immediately halt the killings [JURIST report] and violence against civilian protesters in response to the fatal shootings of peaceful anti-government protesters. Also in April, al-Assad ended [JURIST report] the country’s 48-year-old state of emergency, but protests continue. Earlier in the same month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [text] that Syrian security forces have stopped medical personnel [JURIST report], sometimes violently, from attending to injured protesters. A spokesperson for the group called the practice “both inhumane and illegal.” Pillay urged the Syrian government [JURIST report] in March to ensure protesters’ rights to peaceful expression and to work toward addressing their concerns instead of responding with violence.