[JURIST] Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [Al Jazeera profile] announced [SANA press release] on Sunday that his government had nothing to do with last week’s Houla massacre and that “not even monsters” would carry out the attacks. Al-Assad made his remarks, his first since the massacre that killed more than 100 civilian men, women and children occurred last week, during a televised speech to parliament [AP report]. His speech comes two days after the UN voted [JURIST report] 41-3 to approve a resolution blaming pro-government groups and members of the government’s army for the attacks. Al-Assad denied these allegations and accused foreign extremists and terrorists of being the real masterminds behind the attacks. Opposition leaders such as Adib Shishakly, a member of the Syrian National Council [official website], claimed Assad’s speech was full of lies and was simply a response from international political pressure.
Last month, UN human rights experts reported that both the Syrian government and anti-government groups were responsible for killings and other human rights abuses [JURIST report] against even children as young as 10 years old. Human rights advocates have continuously called on Syria to end the violence against civilians. The UN Security Council in April approved implementation of a peace plan [text; JURIST report], which is now unlikely to be successful in the wake of the Houla massacre. In April, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report [JURIST report] alleging that the Syrian government was responsible for killing more than 100 civilians. Also in April, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] condemned Syria [JURIST report] for attacks on civilians. The UN Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in February also demanded a cease-fire [JURIST report] during an emergency Human Rights Council session. Syria’s UN ambassador walked out of the session following Pillay’s speech, calling the session illegitimate.