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US to fund Syria abuse documentation

US administration pledges $1.25 million to train Syrian investigators and document alleged abuses to ensure accountability in the bloody year-long crackdown on protest, secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced

AFP , Monday 2 Apr 2012
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The United States said Monday it will help fund a new initiative to train Syrian investigators and document alleged abuses to ensure accountability in the bloody year-long crackdown on protests.

The State Department said the United States would offer an initial $1.25 million to the "Syria Accountability Clearinghouse," which was announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a weekend conference in Istanbul.

The United States is taking the step "recognizing that perpetrators of gross violations of human rights in Syria must be held to account and that the Syrian people will lead the way," a State Department statement said.

The Syria Accountability Clearinghouse will secure storage of evidence of abuses and offer training to investigators, lawyers and human rights groups who are looking into alleged violations, it said.

The Clearinghouse will also include a "prosecutors' unit" to work on future cases that could be brought before Syrian or international courts, or potential hybrid tribunals.

The State Department said it would work with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other countries. Britain last week announced another £500,000 ($800,000) for the Syrian opposition, in part to help activists record abuses.

The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have died since President Bashar al-Assad launched a crackdown on protests in March 2011.

The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights on Monday put the toll at 10,108 and said that 7,306 of the victims have been civilians.

Clinton on Sunday joined officials of Western and Arab nations at a "Friends of Syria" conference in Istanbul that called for Assad to be given a deadline to meet the terms of a peace plan negotiated by former UN chief Kofi Annan.

Russia, which holds veto power at the UN Security Council, has been the main supporter of Assad and rejected calls in Istanbul for a deadline. UN-backed courts have sought to bring accountability after a number of other conflicts.

Since last year, uprisings have toppled authoritarian leaders in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen. Courts in some of the countries have since taken aim at alleged violations during the former strongmen's rule.

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