UN human rights report on Syria

Reuters , Friday 19 Aug 2011

The UN publishes its report on the human rights situation in Syria, documenting atrocities committed between March and July

Syrian forces have fired on peaceful protesters across the country, often at short range and without warning, killing at least 1,900 civilians in what could amount to crimes against humanity, U.N. human rights investigators said on Thursday.

Following are some excerpts from the team's report, which covers mid-March to mid-July.

ON THE DEATH TOLL
"At the time of writing, the mission was in receipt of over 1,900 names and details of persons killed in Syria since mid-March 2011; all are said to be civilians."
"The mission gathered corroborative eyewitness statements with respect to numerous summary executions, including 353 named victims."

ON DISPROPORTIONATE USE OF FORCE USED AGAINST PROTESTERS
"Reports from a wide variety of sources assert that the demonstrations were mostly peaceful. Civilians of all ages participated in protests and often carried olive branches or showed their bare chests to indicate they had no weapons. Government-controlled media channels reported these events inaccurately, in most cases attributing disturbances to 'terrorist' elements. The majority of killings reported were due to live ammunition, coming from security forces, the military and Shabbiha elements, using Kalashnikovs and other guns. Reports from witnesses indicate that there was a widespread modus operandi to kill civilians by using a) forces on the ground, b) snipers on rooftops and c) air power."

ON SHOOT-TO-KILL POLICY AND SNIPERS
"Consistent with an apparent shoot-to-kill policy, most of the victims' bullet wounds were located in the head, chest and general upper body area."
"There was a clear pattern of snipers shooting at demonstrators, including reports that officers were specially trained to be used against civilian demonstrations. Buildings where snipers were positioned included premises belonging to the security forces, government or Ba'ath Party buildings, and mosques. In most cases no warnings were used before opening fire. In some instances it appeared that snipers targeted people who were providing medical assistance by trying to evacuate the wounded."

ON WEAPONRY USED
"Witnesses attested to the use of tanks, heavy machine guns mounted on anti-personnel carriers and helicopters in urban areas. Security forces also used rocket-propelled grenades and grenade launchers mounted on AK47s against civilians in other areas."
"Civilians were shot at by security officers in helicopters, who were deployed to various demonstrations. No warnings were used before opening fire."

ON COVER-UP ATTEMPTS
"Victims and witnesses reported widespread attempts to cover up killings by the security forces, including the use of mass graves. In al-Ladhiqiyya on 8 April, garbage trucks were seen collecting dead bodies. Civilians stored murdered victims in makeshift refrigerators during the sieges. But there were several reports of security forces killing injured victims by putting them alive in refrigerators in hospital morgues."

ON TORTURE
"From the 180 witness accounts taken by the mission, 98 revealed torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment of civilians by military and security forces, which violate Syria's obligations under the Convention Against Torture."

ON WOMEN AND CHILDREN
"Children have not only been targeted by security forces, but they have been repeatedly subject to the same human rights and criminal violations as adults, including torture, with no consideration for their vulnerable status."
"The mission received a number of reports of sexual assault or rape of women and girls during the course of raids on homes, in particular. The mission was not able to corroborate these accounts."

ON DESERTERS
"Interviews were conducted with a number of former soldiers who had deserted the army, the police and different branches of the security forces. They stated that they received clear orders to use live ammunition against protesters. Those who did not shoot civilians were shot from behind by other security officers and Shabbiha units."

ON FOREIGN FIGHTERS
"According to multiple accounts obtained by the mission, foreign fighters were said to have been present and active during operations in several locations."

ON THOSE RESPONSIBLE
"During the course of its investigations, the mission compiled a list of 50 alleged perpetrators at various levels of government and its agencies in connection with incidents documented in this report.
"This information remains confidential but may be presented by OHCHR (Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights) in the context of future investigations and possible indictments by a competent prosecutor." 

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