The UN’s Fact Finding Mission to Syria has completed its report on potential human right violations in the country, despite being refused access by the Assad government.
Interviewing witnesses, corroborating accounts, detailing injuries and cross-referencing images taken on mobile phones and by the media, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights found that 1,900 Syrians had potentially been killed in violence between security forces, militias and rights protesters since unrest began in March 2011.
The report detailed a large numbers of incidents such as the shooting of mourners and protesters by security forces of the government inside the Omari Mosque in late March, the siege of the city of Dar’a in late April in which electricity and water were shut off and movement restricted by checkpoints around the area, the subsequent protest against the siege at which 60 civilians were shot and the use of electric batons against marchers by security forces dressed in civilian clothing in Zamalka on 1st April.
The town of Madaya was also put under siege by around 2000 security personnel. At both sieges, it is believed that a number of targeted and arbitrary arrests were conducted and involved significant beatings of the accused. It is believed that some of those in custody have been taken to a detention facility in Kafr Sousseh.
The report also detailed deaths and injuries to soldiers and other state security personnel. The claims of the Syrian government, including arguments that Salafists had used “legitimate” protests as a cover for their agenda, were detailed, though the report ultimately found “a pattern of human rights violations that constitutes widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population, which may amount to crimes against humanity as provided for in article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court”.
The OHCHR report recommended that the government of Syria remove immunity for security forces, end the mistreatment of protesters, allow the return of refugees and give access to humanitarian workers and UN rights bodies.
The German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and UK Prime Minister David Cameron followed the publication of the UN report with a call for President Assad of Syria to “step aside”:
“Our three countries believe that President Assad, who is resorting to brutal military force against his own people and who is responsible for the situation, has lost all legitimacy and can no longer claim to lead the country. We call on him to face the reality of the complete rejection of his regime by the Syrian people and to step aside in the best interests of Syria and the unity of its people.
“Violence in Syria must stop now. Like other Arab peoples during recent months, the Syrians demand that their rights to liberty, dignity and to choose freely their leaders be recognised. We will continue to work with the Syrian people, countries in the region and our international partners, with a central role for the United Nations, to support their demands and achieve a peaceful and democratic transition.”
Barack Obama signed an order at the White House on 18th August 2011 freezing the assets of the Syrian government in the United States.
In a meeting of Baath Arab Socialist Party members, the Central Committee and other organisation on Wednesday 17th August, President Bashar al-Assad mounted a robust defence of Syrian unity in the face of external pressure, maintaining that Syria would defend its sovereignty.