[JURIST] Syrian governmental forces have been committing crimes against humanity [press release], including torture and unlawful killings of anti-government protesters in Homs, Syria [map], according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] report [text, PDF] released Friday. According to HRW, Homs, a governorate with some of the strongest anti-government leanings, has become “a microcosm of the Syrian government’s brutality.” HRW estimates security forces have killed more than 3,100 protesters in an effort to silence the movement. In addition to killings, the report offers evidence that Syrian forces have engaged in forced disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention. Violence in Syria continues despite reaching an agreement earlier this month with the Arab League to take measures to end the violence. The Arab League [CFR backgrounder] is scheduled to have an emergency meeting on November 12 to discuss the issue of Syria breaking the agreement. HRW is recommending that the Arab League suspend Syria as a consequence of failing to abide by the agreement. HRW further recommends:
the Syrian government immediately to halt the use of excessive and lethal force by security forces against unarmed demonstrators and activists … and to provide immediate and unhindered access to human rights groups and journalists to the governorate of Homs, including hospitals, places of detention, and prisons [and that] the United Nations Security Council to take action, separately and jointly, to protect civilians by pushing for international civilian observers to deploy inside Syria, including in Homs Governorate in order to monitor human rights violations.
HRW argues that the international response to the situation has been inadequate so far, but taking these measures would be a step in the right direction.
Earlier this week, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] announced that the death toll of Syrian protesters has exceeded 3,500 [JURIST report]. Last week, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad offered amnesty [JURIST report] to any protester who surrendered themselves. In October, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged [statement] the international community to take steps to protect civilian lives in Syria [JURIST report]. The violence has been condemned [JURIST report] by both the UN and the Arab League. Fighting is not limited to the Homs region—HRW released a report [HRW report] in June of this year detailing rights abuses in the Daraa Governorate. There has been a major struggle to put an end to Syrian violence since the protests began earlier this year. In April, Assad ended [JURIST report] the country’s 48-year-old state of emergency, but protests have continued.