Syria says 1,100 killed by 'terrorists' as UN hearings begin

7th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Syria said Thursday that more than 1,100 people had been killed by "terrorists" in ongoing unrest in the country, as it faced a barrage of criticism at the UN Human Rights Council.

"Syria is grappling with terrorist threats," Faysal Mekdad said in a speech to the 47-state council as it reviewed the situation in Syria.

"In the next few days we will give the High Commission for Human Rights a list of martyrs.....civil servants, police.....more than 1,100 people who have been killed by the terrorists," he said.

"My country has suffered numerous threats of war over the last seven months: media war, disinformation, lies of all kinds and deception."

The United Nations announced on Thursday that the toll of people killed in Syria's crackdown on anti-regime protests since March 15 has topped 2,900.

Mekdad underlined recent reforms announced by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and municipal elections to be held on December 12.

"We have welcomed our humanitarian partners and the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross)....which proves that we have nothing to hide," he said.

He also rejected criticism contained in draft UN Security Council resolutions that called for an international commission of inquiry into human rights violations in the country.

But one Western country after another urged Damascus to allow the experts appointed in August into the country.

French representative Jean-Baptiste Mattei said Syria should "listen to the demands of the international community and put an immediate end to the repression and climate of terror it has imposed on its own people."

He noted that Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay had said that some actions committed in Syria could be branded crimes against humanity.

Britain and the United States meanwhile called for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.

"A government that fails to respect the will of its people, denies the fundamental rights of its citizens, and chooses to rule through terror and intimidation, cannot be considered legitimate and must step down aside immediately," US ambassador Betty King said.

Even China, which along with Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution to slap sanctions on Syria on Tuesday, expressed concern at the turn of events, while stressing the principle of non-interference in a country's internal events.

The Chinese representative called on Damascus to implement a political process that excluded no parties "as soon as possible."

Russia however accused regime opponents of taking up arms, and underlined measures taken by Syria "to increase the liberty of citizens."

Speakers also cited torture, disappearances and violence by Syrian police, but Mekdad rejected the allegations, saying that police were not even armed.

Mekdad said the authorities had been obliged to use tanks because police were not able to deal with the situation.

The Human Rights Council had on August 23 ordered its second probe into violations committed by the Syrian regime during its crackdown on popular protests, but an investigating team has yet to be allowed into the country.

The committee of experts is due to submit its report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the end of November.

A first team formed by the Council in April was blocked from entering Syria and had to base its investigation on interviews of people in and out of the country, as well as on videos, photos and written communications.

© 2011 AFP

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