UN rights panel slams murder, torture of civilians in Syria
The UN Human Rights Council on Friday condemned the murder and torture of civilians by Syrian authorities after being told that 56 children were killed last month, as violence raged on.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms the ongoing slaughter, arbitrary arrest and torture of peaceful protesters," US ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe said at the council's third emergency meeting called to discuss Syria since the repression began in March.
A UN-appointed investigative panel found widespread killings and abuse of dissidents since the start of the crackdown, which has claimed more than 4,000 lives, according to the United Nations.
"November was the deadliest month so far with 56 children killed," said the head of the panel, citing "reliable sources."
"To date, 307 children were killed by state forces," Paulo Pinheiro told the Geneva-based body.
Also Friday, US Vice President Joe Biden urged Syria's Bashar al-Assad to quit, adding to growing global pressure on the regime over its crackdown on dissidents.
"The United States' position on Syria is clear," Biden told the Hurriyet daily. "The Syrian regime must end its brutality against its own people and President Assad must step down so a peaceful transition that respects the will of the people can take place."
The vice president called for a peaceful transition in Syria, saying: "Lasting stability can come when there is a government that listens to its people and addresses their needs, rather than turning their guns on them."
Europe and the United States tightened economic sanctions on Syria Thursday, including bans on exporting gas and oil industry equipment and trading Syrian government bonds in an effort to choke off funding.
Biden also praised Turkey's "real" leadership on Syria under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"Turkey has been a real leader on this issue. I commend Prime Minister Erdogan's recent call for Mr. Assad to step down because of the regime's treatment of its people, as well as Turkish leaders' calls for others in the international community to support the Syrian people," he said.
The United States and its Western allies are leading a campaign to isolate Assad over the bloody crackdown.
Turkey, a traditional NATO ally of Washington, announced tough sanctions on the Syrian regime including a freeze on trade and a break in links with the Syrian central bank.
Ankara also hosts Syrian army defectors and an umbrella opposition group, the Syrian National Council.
European Union chair Poland told the UN rights council that those guilty of abuses must be prosecuted.
"Perpetrators of the human rights violations must be held to account, in particular those who committed crimes that may warrant the attention of the International Criminal Court," ambassador Remigiusz Henczel said.
"This report deserves full consideration not only by this council, but by all relevant UN bodies, including the Security Council," he said.
However Russian ambassador Valery Loshchinin said the global community had been given a "one-sided" report of events in Syria.
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay added her voice to widespread fears that the crackdown has brought the country to the brink of civil war.
"The Syrian authorities' continual ruthless repression, if not stopped now, can drive the country into a fully fledged civil war," she told the opening of the meeting.
Pillay repeated a call to the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC.
In its findings published Monday the panel said Syrian security forces committed crimes against humanity, including the killing and torture of children, after orders from the top of Assad's regime.
It interviewed 223 victims and witnesses, among them defectors from Assad's security forces who told of shoot-to-kill orders to crush demonstrators and cases of children being tortured to death.
The three-member group tasked by the rights council was not allowed access to Syria and carried out its interviews elsewhere and via Skype, chair Pinheiro told the meeting.
Meanwhile a rights group said Friday that mutinous Syrian soldiers attacked a Syrian air force intelligence base in the northwestern province of Idlib, killing eight people.
And another two people were killed by random gunfire in the troubled central province of Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement received in Nicosia.
Witnessses said Syrian troops also fired across the border into Lebanon, wounding two people among refugees who had fled an attack on the village of Tal Kalakh on Friday which the Observatory said left dozens injured.
© 2011 AFP