UN Human Rights Council reports ‘quickly deteriorating’ conditions in Syria

Smoke billows skyward as homes and buildings are shelled in the city of Homs, Syria. SOURCE: UN Photo/David Manyua

Violence in Syria has worsened considerably since the U.N.-brokered cease-fire broke down last month, a human rights panel reported.  

“Military engagements have escalated dramatically… and have extended to other regions and levels not previously involved. The situation on the ground is dangerously and quickly deteriorating,” according to a report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

The report, released yesterday, found that government forces are increasingly using snipers, machine guns, heavy artillery, tanks, and helicopter gunships to attack opposition forces and unarmed civilians. The commission also noted that both military and pro-government militias have carried out extrajudicial executions and have tried to cover up those killings by burning the bodies, including children.

“The further militarization of the crisis will be catastrophic for the people of Syria and the region,” warned Pablo Pinheiro, Chairman of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria. “The cessation of hostilities is of paramount importance. It is the civilian population, from various communities, who are suffering in this conflict, many paying with their lives.”

The U.N. estimates more than 10,000 have been killed in Syria since the uprising against President Bashar al Assad’s regime began in March 2011 as part of the ‘Arab Spring’ movement. Although Assad’s government and opposition forces agreed to a cease-fire in April, violence has intensified since the parliamentary election was held in May.

Annan calls for high-level meeting to discuss ways to stop the violence in Syria

The alarming situation has prompted U.N. Special Envoy Kofi Annan to convene a high-level meeting in Geneva this Saturday to figure out ways to implement Annan’s six-point plan to stop the violence and civilian casualties.

“The objectives of the Action Group for Syria are to identify steps and measures to secure full implementation of the six-point plan and Security Council resolutions 2042 and 2043, including an immediate cessation of violence in all its forms,” said Annan. “The Action Group for Syria should also agree on guidelines and principles for a Syrian-led political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people; and agree on actions that will make these objectives a reality on the ground.”

Annan will need to secure the cooperation of both Russia and China in order to move forward with any substantive actions. Russia and China are allies of Syria and both hold veto votes in the U.N. Security Council.

Inconclusive findings in Al-Houla investigation

The commission also investigated the massacre in Al-Houla, a cluster of towns about 18 miles northwest of Homs, a city that was heavily shelled and attacked by the Syrian military and pro-Assad militias. Dozens of children were found killed in Al-Houla in May, prompting outrage and global condemnation. Many of the victims were killed by gunshots or knife wounds inflicted at close range.

The preliminary finding, though inconclusive, suggests that “forces loyal to the [Syrian] government may have been responsible for many of the deaths” in Al-Houla. The Syrian government, on the other hand, have blamed the atrocities on anti-government forces and foreign terrorist groups.

The commission will present its final report in September and provide the U.N. with a confidential list of suspects who may have committed the Al-Houla murders.

 

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