States must act resolutely on UN report on Syria
Amnesty International today urged states to act on a UN report confirming that Syrian security forces committed crimes against humanity during their violent crackdown on demonstrators this year. The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry’s report, released in Geneva today, called on the Government of Syria to launch “independent and impartial investigations of these violations and to bring perpetrators to justice”.It also called on the Syrian government to put an immediate end to the “ongoing gross human rights violations”, such as summary execution, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, and torture, including sexual violence.“This report confirms what we have been saying for months – that crimes against humanity have been committed by Syrian security forces,” said Philip Luther, Interim Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.“However, events over the past months provide little reason to believe that the Syrian authorities will investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes. The UN and its member states must act to ensure accountability.”On 12 October, the Syrian government said it would establish its own investigation into alleged abuses since March 2011. It added that it would cooperate with the UN Commission once its own inquiry was completed. However, Damascus has released no information about its national investigation. And given its past human rights record, there is little reason to believe it will investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes.“The international community must step in to address the climate of impunity in Syria,” said Philip Luther. “The Security Council must refer the situation to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.” More than 3,250 people are reported to have been killed in Syria since mid-March, including more than 200 children. Many are believed to have been shot during protests or security operations in residential areas. More than 160 are reported to have died in detention in highly suspicious circumstances.Thousands of others have been arrested. Many prisoners have been held incommunicado in detention centres where torture and other ill-treatment are reported to be rife.On 25 November, the UN Committee against Torture stated that it was alarmed by the fact that the “reports of massive human rights violations take place in a context of total and absolute impunity, as prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations have not been undertaken in such cases". The Committee requested the Government of Syria to provide it with a special report by 9 March 2012.Violence continued on Sunday with Syrian activists saying at least 11 people had been killed across the country. Established by the UN Human Rights Council, the Commission of Inquiry investigation ran from the end of September to mid-November and included interviews with 223 victims and witnesses of alleged human rights abuses.