Syrian forces may be committing crimes against humanity: UN report

Syrian government forces cracking down on the opposition may be committing crimes against humanity, according to a report published Aug. 18 by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The 22-page report, prepared by the the Fact-finding Mission on Syria, contains allegations of summary executions, killing of unarmed protesters and torture of detainees. According to the report, “[t]he Mission found a pattern of human rights violations that constitutes widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population, which may amount to crimes against humanity as provided for in article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.” The Fact-finding Mission recommended that the Security Council refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for further investigation. The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) is to hold a special session on Syria next week.

The Fact-finding Mission was established by the HRC in April. Last week, 27 rights groups called for the HRC to convene a second special session on Syria . Also last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that an unknown Western country is funding an ICC investigation into Syria’s recent human rights abuses. Last month, two UN rights officials over reports of violence used by Syrian authorities against the country’s own people. Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide Francis Deng and Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect Edward Luck said that reports of Syrian forces killing or arbitrarily arresting peaceful protesters indicate potentially grievous violations of international human rights laws, and urged officials to adhere to the government’s 2005 pledge to protect its citizens. In June, the OHCHR published a preliminary report describing human rights violations in Syria and calling for an investigation into government-authorized abuses related to pro-democracy protests that began earlier this year.

From Jurist, Aug. 18. Used with permission.

See our last posts on Syria and the Arab revolutions.

  1. Syria: Hama prosecutor quits over repression
    From the Los Angeles Times, Sept. 1:

    The attorney general for Syria’s central governorate of Hama says in a video posted Thursday that he has resigned, in response to what he described as the “barbaric treatment of peaceful demonstrators” by the government of President Bashar Assad and his “thugs.”

    Adnan Mohamad Bakkour’s resignation is a blow to the regime in Damascus, which has seen relatively few defections by high-ranking officials.

    “I give the following reasons for my resignation. First, the killing of 72 prisoners, who were peaceful protesters and political activists, in the central Hama prison on Sunday, July 31, and then the burying of them all in a mass grave near Khaldieh in Hama,” Bakkour, dressed in a suit and tie, said in a video posted on the Internet.

    According to the lawyer, about 320 people were tortured to death inside stations for the security forces.

    “I was forced to order that 17 bodies be moved from refrigerators and buried,” he said.

  2. Syrian protesters call for “international protection”
    Thousands of protesters again took to the streets of cities across Syria for Friday protests Sept. 9—and for the first time called for international help. The movement, which nominates a theme for each Friday’s protest, this time declared the “Day of International Protection.” Protesters chanted “We want international protection!” A banner in an AFP photo reads “International protection is the best protection.” (BBC News, FT, Sept. 9)

  3. Syria: pro-regime demonstrators target US envoy

    Pro-regime demonstrators tried to attack the US ambassador to Syria on Sept. 29, as Damascus accused Washington of inciting "armed groups" to violence against the army. Nearly 100 Syrians tried to storm an office in the capital where the ambassador, Robert Ford, had just arrived to meet opposition figure Hassan Abdelazim, the latter said. "They were protesting in the street and at the entrance to the building. They tried to break down the door of my office, but didn't succeed," Abdelazim told AFP. (AFP, Sept. 29)