Human Rights Council: Stop human rights violations in Syria

The Syrian Government’s crackdown against protesters in an effort to crush opposition prompted the UN Human Rights Council to hold a special session to discuss the human rights situation in the country.

Syrian protestors during a demonstration in Istanbul, Turkey, 15 April, 2011 © EPA Photo/Tolga Bozoglu

Information that has emerged from Syria since mid-March paints a disturbing picture: about 450 people killed and four times that number injured; widespread use of live fire against protestors; the arrest, detention and disappearance of demonstrators, human rights defenders, and journalists; torture and ill-treatment of detainees; and sharp repression of press freedoms, among other allegations of violations.

In a resolution adopted during the special session on 29 April, the UN Human Rights Council condemned the use of lethal violence against peaceful protestors by Syrian authorities, and urged the Government to put an end to all human rights violations and to respect all fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of expression and of assembly.

The Council also asked the UN Human Rights office to urgently dispatch a mission to the country to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law, with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring full accountability. 

In an address on behalf of the High Commissioner, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang, called on the Syrian Government to learn from recent events across the Middle East and North Africa.

“Violent repression of peaceful protest does not resolve grievances of people,” she said. “On the contrary, it risks creating a downward spiral of anger, violence, killings and chaos. And, it intensifies the peoples’ discontent with their leaders.”

Recent reports state that entire towns have been besieged; tanks have been deployed and have shelled densely populated areas. Reports have also surfaced of snipers firing on persons attempting to assist the injured or remove dead bodies from public areas.

The Human Rights Council resolution calls on the Government to release all prisoners of conscience, to refrain from any reprisals against people participating in peaceful demonstrations, and to launch a credible and impartial investigation.
“We call upon the Government of Syria to immediately stop the use of deadly force and to protect its own people,” said Special Rapporteur Olivier De Schutter in a statement made on behalf of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures. “As independent experts of the Council, we call for an independent, transparent inquiry to investigate the violations.”

The Syrian representative to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Faysal Khabas Hamoui, expressed the view that the resolution was unbalanced and did not send the right message.

The resolution was adopted with 26 votes in favour, 9 votes against and 7 abstentions.

5 May 2011