UN rights boss calls on Syria to halt “assault”


The top UN human rights official called on Syria to halt its “assault on its own people” and said more than 1,100 people may have been killed and up to 10 000 detained since March.

Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged Damascus to allow a fact-finding mission into the country to investigate all allegations, including Syrian state television reports that 120 members of the security forces were killed by armed gangs.
“In my view, this is nothing more than a government waging a war on its own people, people who are asking for fundamental human rights that are accepted in most democratic countries,” Pillay told Reuters in an interview, Reuters reports.
“They should be responding to those calls for ending corruption, a greater say in government and rights. Instead the government has unleashed a highly cruel and vicious violence against its people,” she said.

Syria’s government was attempting to “bludgeon its population into submission” through the use of tanks, artillery and snipers, Pillay said in an earlier statement.
“I urge the government to halt this assault on its own people’s most fundamental human rights,” she said.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in three months of popular unrest in Syria, human rights groups say.

On Wednesday, Britain, France, Germany and Portugal handed the U.N. Security Council a draft resolution condemning President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown, despite the risk of a Russian veto.
“We are receiving an increasing number of alarming reports pointing to the Syrian government’s continuing efforts to ruthlessly crush civilian protests,” said Pillay, a former U.N. war crimes judge.

Local human rights groups estimated that more than 50 protesters were killed during a protest in the city of Hama last Friday. Pillay said it would seem that it was one of the bloodiest days since the uprising began.

She denounced the death of Hamza al-Khatib, a 13-year-old boy whom activists say was tortured and killed by security forces. Syrian authorities deny he was tortured, saying he was killed at a demonstration in which armed gangs shot at guards.
“There is a report of another youngster who has been found similarly killed. This shows how bankrupt the regime has become in the excessive violence it is using to deal with the situation,” Pillay told Reuters in the interview.

She voiced concern at reports of civilians fleeing the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughour after what she called threatening statements by government officials.

Syrian troops with tanks have deployed near Jisr al-Shughour, prompting many of its 50,000 people to flee. The government has accused armed bands of killing scores of its security men in the town and has vowed to send in the army.

More than 1,500 Syrians have fled to Turkey to escape a feared army crackdown, officials said on Thursday.

On April 29, the U.N. Human Rights Council set up a fact-finding mission to investigate violations in Syria.

Pillay again urged Syria to allow the U.N. human rights investigators into the country to establish the facts. Members of her team are collecting evidence in the region but have yet to receive a green light from Damascus.
“So far we have not received any official reply from Syria — either positive or negative,” she said.