UN rights chief warns Syria of 'downward spiral'

26th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay warned Syria on Saturday that a violent crackdown on reformist protests risked plunging the country into a downward spiral of violence.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Syria "to draw lessons from recent events across the Middle East and North Africa which clearly demonstrate that violent repression of peaceful protest not only does not resolve the grievances of people taking to the streets, it risks creating a downward spiral of anger, violence, killings and chaos."

"The Syrian people are no different to the other populations in the region. They want to enjoy the fundamental human rights which they have been denied for so long," Pillay added in a statement.

Syria, which has been ruled by the Baath party for close to 50 years, this month began to witness unprecedented protests demanding major reforms in the wake of similar movements across the Middle East and North Africa.

At least 10 people were killed on Friday after activists said police fired on protesters in the southern Syrian village of Sanamen.

Pillay underlined that attempts in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain to use force against protestors had failed to quell discontent and "only fuelled frustration and anger until they have reached boiling point."

"Once this downward spiral begins, it is much more difficult to do what should have been done in the first place, namely guarantee protesters' legitimate rights to peaceful expression and assembly, listen and work to resolve the real issues they are raising," she added in a statement.

Pillay had welcomed the Syrian government's announcement on Thursday of political and economic reforms, but she expressed concern on Saturday at the subsequent renewed crackdown.

"Actions speak much louder than words," she said, condemning the shooting of unarmed demonstrators.

"To announce a package of long-overdue and very welcome reforms, and then to open fire at protestors in the streets the very next day sends diametrically opposite signals and seriously undermines trust."

Amnesty International has estimated that 55 people had been killed during a week of unrest in and around Daraa, which lies close to the border with Jordan.

© 2011 AFP

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