UN rights council piles pressure on Syria for access

15th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

The UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday piled pressure on Damascus to allow its investigators in to examine the situation in Syria, where 1,297 civilians have reportedly been killed in a bloody crackdown.

Speaking on behalf of 54 countries, Canada said: "We reiterate our call on the Syrian Arab Republic to immediately allow the mission of the High Commissioner unfettered access to investigate and establish the facts and circumstances surrounding all violations and abuses of international human rights law."

The UN Human Rights Council had ordered a probe into the bloodshed in Syria during its April 29 special session on the country.

Since then, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay had repeatedly sought access to Syria, to no avail.

On Wednesday, she told the council: "I regret to report that, despite several official communications requesting the government of Syria to grant access to the fact-finding mission, I have received no response from the government."

Meanwhile, UN investigators are collecting information from outside Syria, with a team currently in southern Turkey where thousands of Syrians have sought refuge in the past week.

The joint statement read by Canada pointed out that "credible observers provide daily reports of killings, arbitrary detention, and torture of men, women, and children."

"These reports must be independently verified," said the statement, which urged Damascus to "launch a credible and impartial investigation and bring those responsible for unlawful attacks against civilians to justice".

The UN rights chief also reiterated her call on Damascus to "halt this assault on its own people."

"I remind the Syrian authorities that violations of international law are serious crimes for whch perpetrators can be held accountable," Pillay said.

The crackdown in Syria is continuing in the north of the country, with more civilian deaths reported.

On Tuesday, the United States accused Iran of backing Damascus' assault on pro-democracy protestors.

According to a toll released Tuesday by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the violence has claimed the lives of 1,297 civilians and 340 security force members in Syria since the unrest erupted mid-March.

© 2011 AFP

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