[JURIST] Two UN rights officials on Friday expressed concern [press release, PDF] over reports of violence used by Syrian authorities against the country’s own people. Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide Francis Deng [official profile, PDF] and Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect Edward Luck [academic profile] stated that reports of Syrian forces killing or arbitrarily arresting peaceful protesters indicate potentially grievous violations of international human rights laws, and urged officials to adhere to the government’s 2005 pledge to protect its citizens. They also called on Syria to grant UN officials access in order to conduct humanitarian and investigatory missions, saying:
Based on available information, the Special Advisers consider that the scale and gravity of the violations indicate a serious possibility that crimes against humanity may have been committed and continue to be committed in Syria. They underline the need for an independent, thorough, and objective investigation of the events in the country. They call on the Government of Syria, as the Secretary-General has done, to allow humanitarian access to affect areas and to facilitate the visit of the Human Rights Council-mandated fact finding mission so that it can complete its work. Without these steps, it will be very difficult to defuse existing tensions and to prevent the escalation of violence.
The statement comes as violence in the country continues, and some allege that official misconduct has intensified [AFP report] in the days immediately prior to Ramadan beginning on August 1.
There has been a major struggle to put an end to Syrian violence since the protests began earlier this year. Earlier this month, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] documenting alleged crimes against humanity during an operation to suppress demonstrations, including killings, mass arrests, arbitrary detentions and torture. 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 [JURIST report] the violence used by Syrian authorities against peaceful demonstrators and called for a full investigation. Days earlier, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for Syria to immediately halt the killings [JURIST report] and violence against civilian protesters. Over one thousand people have been killed and 10,000 displaced since protests erupted in February.