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UN Human Rights Council Condemns Syria’s ‘crimes Against Humanity’

Posted on the 02 December 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

UN Human Rights Council condemns Syria’s ‘crimes against humanity’

Protesting al-Assad's regime. Photo credit: Maggie Osama

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) held an emergency meeting Friday to adopt a report, published last week, documenting the crimes committed by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime against the Syrian people during the crackdown on the protests that have continued since March.

An Independent International Commission, established by the UN in August, gathered evidence from 233 witnesses and victims of the regime’s oppression. They reported last week that 307 children number among the 4,000 people killed by Assad’s regime. The commission reported “patterns of summary execution, arbitrary arrest, including sexual violence, as well as violations of children’s rights.” Witnesses allege that orders for the rights violations go back to the highest levels of Syria’s regime. The official position of Assad’s government remains that terrorists and armed gangs are responsible for the violence in Syria.

“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,” urged Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The UNHRC is now characterizing the situation in Syria as a civil war and has urged international leaders to refer allegations of Syria’s crimes against humanity to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Information gap. A draft resolution, supported by most of the 47 member states of the HRC, calls for the establishment of a special investigator in Syria. Assad’s regime has prohibited foreign journalists and rights activists from entering the country so the prospect of a UN investigator seems unlikely. More than 14,000 are reported to be in detention and the death toll is being placed at 4,000, though Pillay acknowledged that “reliable information coming to us is that [the toll] is much [higher] than that’”.

Ineffective sanctions. In an effort to force Assad to end his suppression of the protests, the European Union, the Arab League and Turkey, Syria’s principal trading partner, have all imposed sanctions, targeting businesses that prop-up the regime. The sanctions run parallel to a growing chorus of international condemnation. However, sanctions and pressure applied by the international community have thus far proved ineffective. Indeed, Chris Phillips, from The Economist‘s Intelligence Unit, is doubtful of the impact continued sanctions will have.


“The EU reiterates its condemnation in the strongest terms of the brutal crackdown by the Syrian government,” EU foreign ministers said, in a statement after talks in Brussels.

No real action. The UN Security Council is the only international institution capable of referring a country to the prosecutor of the ICC, but Russia and China have opposed suggestions that the Security Council should refer Assad’s regime. Meanwhile, NATO has rejected outright the prospect of military intervention in Syria.

Economics not politics. Professor Fawaz Gerges, of the London School of Economics, argued that the increasing regional backlash against Syria could vindicate protesters and spur their efforts. He also noted that the effect of economic sanctions on Syria’s economy may result in the regime no longer being able to afford to pay its security forces. He describes Syria’s increasing regional isolation as a “tightening noose”.  He explained that Turkey, Syria’s most economically important ally, is the stakeholder and increasing distance between the two counties could cripple Syria’s economy.

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