UN rights body to pressure Syria on brutal crackdown

AFP , Monday 22 Aug 2011

The UN Human Rights Council is to push the Syrian regime Monday to halt attacks on anti-government protesters and allow an independent probe into human rights violations

An armoured military vehicle is parked on a main street of Hama (Photo: Reuters)

A UN emergency session comes after the world body investigators concluded that widespread and systematic rights violations had been committed by President Bashar al-Assad's regime since peaceful demonstrations began in mid-March.

While blocked from accessing the country, the UN mission found corroborating accounts of violations such as a "shoot-to-kill" policy, summary executions and restricted access to medical facilities.

Called by 24 members of the council, including Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Monday's meeting will consider during the course of the day a draft resolution that "deplores the continued indiscriminate attacks on its population" and seek an immediate stop to "all acts of violence."

The resolution also highlights the need to "urgently dispatch an independent international commission of inquiry... to investigate violations of international human rights law in Syria since July 2011."

Investigators would be asked "to establish the facts and circumstances which may amount to such violations and where possible, to identify those responsible, with a view of ensuring that perpetrators of violations are held accountable."

Monday's meeting marks the second of its kind on Syria. A previous session in April ordered a mission to investigate claims of violations but President Bashar al-Assad's regime has so far defied calls to allow investigators in.

US ambassador Eileen Donahoe said the meeting would "increase pressure on the Assad regime, to get Assad to step down and to allow the Syrian people to move forward."

"The specific outcome we hope for is the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate facts on the ground in Syria, and to bring the Syrian authorities who are responsible for the atrocities to account.

"We believe that the establishment of the COI is the gold standard in the human rights world and we think that this will send a strong message to the Assad regime that the allegations against him are very serious," she told journalists.

More than 2,000 civilians have been killed in Damascus' crackdown since the popular uprising began in mid-March. On Sunday, Assad scoffed at Western calls for his ouster, rejecting them as "worthless." "While withholding comment, we tell them that their words are worthless," Assad said.

"Such remarks should not be made about a president who was chosen by the Syrian people and who was not put in office by the West, a president who was not made in the United States," he said.

Meanwhile, a UN humanitarian mission began its first full day in Damascus on Sunday, arriving the previous evening to assess aid needs in the wake of the crackdown.

The team, led by the head of the Geneva bureau of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Rashid Khalikov, will stay until 25 August.

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