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UN Inquiry Should Investigate Houla Killings
Human Rights Watch
28 May 2012
 
Kofi Annan should push Syria’s government to allow the UN-appointed Commission of Inquiry access into the country to investigate the May 25, 2012, killing of at least 108 Houla residents, Human Rights Watch said today ahead of an impending visit by the UN envoy to Damascus. The Syrian government has so far refused entry to the UN-mandated commission. Human Rights Watch also reiterated its call to the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
 
Following a May 26 visit to Houla, a region made up of several villages about 20 kilometers northwest of the restive city of Homs, UN monitors confirmed the killings and condemned the “brutal tragedy.” The head of the UN monitoring mission in Syria, Maj Gen Robert Mood, told the media that some of the dead had been killed by shelling and others shot at close range, but did not attribute responsibility for the close-range killing. According to survivors that Human Rights Watch interviewed and local activists, the Syrian army shelled the area on May 25, and armed men, dressed in military clothes, attacked homes on the outskirts of town and executed entire families.
 
All of the witnesses stated the armed men were pro-government, but they did not know whether they were members of the Syrian army or a pro-government militia, locally referred to as shabeeha. (…) At a press conference on May 27, a spokesman for the Syrian Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Ministry categorically denied the army’s responsibility for the killings and announced that the government had formed a military judicial committee to conduct an investigation.
 
“There’s no way a Syrian military commission can credibly investigate this horrendous crime when so much evidence suggests pro-government forces were responsible,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Annan should insist that Syria grant access to the UN commission of inquiry to investigate this and other grave crimes.”
 
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Human Rights Watch also urged other countries to join the calls for accountability by supporting a referral to the ICC as the forum most capable of effectively investigating and prosecuting those bearing the greatest responsibility for abuses in Syria.
 
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