UN rights experts urge Syria government to cease violence against protesters

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[JURIST] A group of UN human rights experts on Friday condemn the Syrian government [press release] and called for a cessation of the continued use of lethal violence to suppress peaceful protests. A UN expert stated, “[w]e continue to receive reports on systematic use of excessive force resulting in killings and injuries; allegations of torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detention of protesters; targeting of human rights defenders; and unjustified limitations on freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression.” The UN Security Council [official website] also recently condemned and urged the Syrian government to address the requests of its people [JURIST report] through a political process that guarantees fundamental freedoms. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on President Bashar al-Assad [Al Jazeera profile] to cease all violence, to fully respect human rights and to implement the reforms the government had announced. Ban further urged Syria’s compliance with international humanitarian agencies and warned that all killings will be investigated and people will be held responsible. Reports allege that at least 120 people have been killed by security forces during civilian demonstrations [PTI report], since Friday.

There has been a major struggle to put an end to Syrian violence [JURIST report] since the protests began earlier this year. Most recently, the UN expressed concern [press release; JURIST report] over violence in Syria and urged the Syrian government to stop using force against protesters. In June, Syrian and international human rights groups urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to investigate the hundreds of civilian deaths during protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The UNHRC, in an emergency special session in April, publicly condemned [text, PDF; JURIST report] the violence used by Syrian authorities against peaceful protesters. Pillay called for Syria to immediately halt the killings [JURIST report] and violence against civilian protesters in response to the fatal shootings of peaceful anti-government protesters. Also in April, al-Assad ended [JURIST report] the country’s 48-year-old state of emergency, but protests have continued. Earlier in the same month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [text] that Syrian security forces have stopped medical personnel [JURIST report], sometimes violently, from attending to injured protesters. A spokesperson for the group called the practice “both inhumane and illegal.” Pillay urged the Syrian government [JURIST report] in March to ensure protesters’ rights to peaceful expression and to work toward addressing their concerns instead of responding with violence. As demonstrations continued throughout the country in March, the government freed 260 political detainees [AFP report] in an overture to the protesters.

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