2 August 2011
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Violence escalates in Syria: Civil society and some Member States call for Security Council Resolution
1. Council of the European Union – Statement of the High Representative on the extension of restrictive measures against Syrian individuals responsible for and associated with repression
1. Amnesty International – UN Security Council Must Take Action Over Syria Bloodshed
2. International Federation for Human Rights – Bashar Al Assad: Criminal Against Humanity
3. United States Institute of Peace – Mass Atrocities in Syria: the International Response
International alarm increases as the violence escalates in Syria, notably in the city of Hama where government forces, fearing a renewed surge of protests during the holy month of Ramadan, entered the city on 31 July and again on 1 August to remove barricades and roadblocks set up, they claim, by armed groups. Syrian forces reportedly attacked civilians with tank cannons and machine guns amassing a total of around 100 dead in the city, and 180 dead nationwide. 31 July was one of the bloodiest days in Syria since protests began according to residents, activists and hospital officials, and has brought the total number of people killed to approximately 1800 since March.
Violence has also erupted in the cities and towns including, Kanaker, Erbin, Albu Kamal, Zor, inspiring condemnation from members of civil society. The International Federation for Human Rights recently released a report detailing the violations committed by Syrian authorities, including extra-judicial killings, torture, mass arrests, abductions and inhumane treatments. Amnesty International has spoken out against the widespread and systematic violence, and continues to urge the Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.
UN SG Ban Ki-moon on 31 July and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on 2 August voiced serious concern over the reports of hundreds being killed and wounded during the past few days, and called upon Syria to halt the violence immediately. This alarm echoes the recent joint statement issued by Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide Dr. Francis Deng and Special Advisor for the Responsibility to Protect Dr. Edward Luck.
The response to the crisis in Syria has varied among Member States and regional organizations, but recent events may result in a change of course. Russia, who had been reluctant to support a resolution on Syria following Security Council action in response to the crisis in Libya, may support a presidential statement. The German Mission to the UN called for emergency consultations in the Security Council, where an earlier draft resolution noted the Syrian government’s responsibility to protect its population, on 1 August. During the consultations, which continued on 2 August, European Member States on the Security Council presented a revised draft resolution that takes into account the most recent events and the lack of humanitarian access granted by the Syrian government.
The European Union imposed additional travel bans and asset freezes against Syrian government and military officials on 1 August. EU High Representative Catherine Ashton also issued two statements on 31 July and 1 August denouncing the attacks, reminding the Syrian government of its “responsibility to protect the population” and reiterating the EU’s pursuance of targeted sanctions against those responsible for or affiliated with the violent repression.
1. Statement of EU High Representative Catherine Ashton on the extension of restrictive measures against Syrian individuals responsible for and associated with repression
Council of the European Union
1 August 2011
(…) Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy/Commission Vice
President issued the following statement today:
“On 18 July, EU Foreign Ministers declared that until the unacceptable violence against civilians stops and decisive progress is achieved towards fulfilling the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for a democratic transition, the EU will pursue its current policy, including sanctions against those responsible for or associated with the violent repression. (…)
Today, the EU has decided to impose further restrictive measures, in the form of an assets freeze and travel ban on five Syrian individuals involved in or associated with the violent repression.
I wish to remind the Syrian authorities of their responsibility to protect the population. The brutal violence creates a serious risk of escalating tension and factional divisions and is not consistent with broad reforms.
I urge the Syrian Government to address the EU's repeated calls for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, to release all political prisoners without further delay and institute a genuine and inclusive national dialogue.
The EU continues to monitor the situation in Syria closely. It will extend restrictive measures, should the Syrian leadership persist in its current path. (…)
See full statement here
1. UN Security Council Must Take Action Over Syria Bloodshed
1 August 2011
(…) The UN Security Council must urgently respond to the ongoing crackdown in Syria by referring the situation to the International Criminal Court, Amnesty International said today, amid reports that security forces continued to shell the city of Hama, where dozens of people have now been killed. (…)
“The Syrian authorities have unleashed their deadliest assault yet on mainly peaceful protesters calling for reform,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“It’s clear that President Bashar al-Assad is unwilling to halt his security forces, so the UN must take decisive action to stem this violent campaign of repression.”
“This should at the very least include imposing an arms embargo, freezing the assets of President al-Assad and other officials suspected of responsibility for crimes against humanity, and referring the situation to the ICC Prosecutor.” (…)
Amnesty International has received the names of more than 1,500 people believed to have been killed since pro-reform protests began in mid-March. Many of them are reported to be protesters and local residents shot by live ammunition from the security forces and the army.
Thousands of others have been arrested in the wake of protests, with many being held incommunicado and many reported to have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated in custody, in some cases resulting in death. Based on its research, Amnesty International has concluded that crimes committed amount to crimes against humanity as they appear to be part of a widespread, as well as systematic, attack against the civilian population. (…)
See full press release
2. Bashar Al Assad: Criminal Against Humanity
International Federation for Human Rights
28 July 2011
FIDH has published a Report on the human rights violations committed in Syria from March to July 2011 entitled “Bashar Al Assad: Criminal Against Humanity”. The Report is based primarily on information collected by Syrian FIDH Member, the Damascus Center of Human Rights Studies, but aso includes information from a coalition of seven other Syrian NGOs.
In light of the persistent repression of the population by the Syrian authorities and of the increasing number of deaths, arbitrary detentions, and acts of torture in Syria, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in cooperation with the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies (DCHRS) and a coalition of 7 other Syrian human rights organizations, urges the Syrian authorities to bring an end to the use of violence against the population and publishes its report on the perpetration of the human rights violations committed in Syria from March to July, 2011. (…)
Rather than a comprehensive report examining all the reported human rights violations, the report examines the trends behind the major and most pervasive crimes and human rights violations reported in Syria between March 15 and July 15, 2011. These crimes include extra-judicial killings and the increasingly systematic use of violence by governmental forces; mass arrests, abductions, enforced disappearances and detention of civilians; acts of torture, degrading or inhumane treatments; repression of the freedom of peaceful assembly and violations of the freedom of information, notably targeting the media and human rights defenders; military operations and actions undertaken to besiege cities, and the practices amounting to collective punishments and to the deprivation of food, water, and medical supplies, as well as the restriction and denial of access to hospitals. In the report, FIDH and DCHRS recall that 1665 people have died since the beginning of the unrest, and that the lives of thousands of others are endangered by the ongoing repression.
In view of the conclusions of its report, FIDH and DCHRS reiterate their call and formulate recommendations to the international community, the UN Security Council, the League of Arab States, and the European Union, to take immediate action to urge the Syrian authorities to put an end to the crimes committed against civilians, and to undertake all efforts to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these crimes. (…)
See full press release
See full report in English
3. Mass Atrocities in Syria: the International Response
United States Institute of Peace
25 July 2011
(...) By all indications, the Syrian government has committed heinous acts of violence against unarmed protestors—including women, children and the elderly—since the outbreak of a popular uprising this spring. Incidents of violence and repression against children have had a particularly galvanizing effect on the popular protests. (…)
The threat of greater violence is real and imminent. The regime certainly has the capability to carry out further acts of mass violence and repression, and the actions of the past four months suggest that it has the will to do so. The hope is that through a mix of sanctions, concerted condemnations, and even the threat of international criminal proceedings the regime might be convinced to pull back its security forces and allow peaceful protests to continue—thus preventing further atrocities. Though this strategy carries risks as well and could lead the regime to escalate out of desperation. (…)
Regional organizations, such as the Arab League, could prove influential, though key Arab players are divided and in disarray due to the wider political tumult sweeping the region. The head of the Arab League, former Egyptian foreign minister Nabil Elaraby, disappointed many when he made statements recently defending Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against criticism from Washington that Assad had lost “legitimacy.” (…)
See full analysis