November 2, 2011
November 2, 2011
The United Nations human rights chief today urged immediate action by the international community to protect the people of Syria from the Government’s ongoing “ruthless” repression, which has claimed more than 4,000 lives since March, including over 300 children.
Ms. Pillay issued the call as the UN Human Rights Council began a special session in Geneva to discuss this week’s release of an independent international commission of inquiry into the Government’s crackdown on protesters.
“The Syrian authorities’ continual ruthless repression, if not stopped now, can drive the country into a full-fledged civil war,” the High Commissioner told the meeting.
“In light of the manifest failure of the Syrian authorities to protect their citizens, the international community needs to take urgent and effective measures to protect the Syrian people.”
In addition to the number of those killed, tens of thousands have been arrested since March, when a public uprising began across Syria, in line with similar movements across North Africa and the Middle East.
More than 14,000 are reported to be in detention as a result of the crackdown, at least 12,400 have sought refuge in neighbouring countries and tens of thousands have been internally displaced, said Ms. Pillay.
Reports of increased armed attacks by the opposition forces, including the so-called Free Syrian Army, against the Syrian military and security apparatus are also of concern, she added.
The report by the three-member commission of inquiry concluded that Syrian security and military forces have committed crimes against humanity against civilians, including acts of killings, torture, rape and imprisonment.
The report – based on interviews with more than 200 victims and witnesses of human rights violations – documents widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Aside from its findings, the commission called on the Syrian Government to immediately end the ongoing rights violations, to initiate investigations of these incidents and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“All acts of murder, torture and other forms of violence must be stopped immediately,” said Ms. Pillay. “All prisoners of conscience and those arbitrarily detained must be released and acts of reprisal against human rights defenders must end.”
She added that international and independent monitoring bodies, including her office (OHCHR) and the League of Arab States, must be allowed into the country, particularly to all places of detention, and all humanitarian workers must be guaranteed immediate and unhindered access to the country.
In August the High Commissioner had encouraged the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“The commission’s report reinforces that the need for international accountability has even greater urgency today,” she stated.
UN News Center