United Nations human rights officials today expressed deep concern amid reports that Syrian security forces have increased the killings, arrests or harassment of protesters, journalists and human rights defenders.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today urged authorities in the Middle East country to immediately stop the use of excessive force, especially the firing of live ammunition against peaceful demonstrators.
Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for OHCHR, told reporters in Geneva that the office had noted reports of an “intensification” of killings of protesters by security forces, as well as the mass arrest of human rights defenders and the harassment of journalists.
“A number of journalists, international and Syrian, as well as Syrian bloggers, have reportedly been arrested and TV signals suspended of at least one private TV station,” she said.
“Syrian authorities must immediately release journalists detained for doing their jobs and to respect the right to freedom of expression.”
Ms. Shamdasani noted that OHCHR has told Syrian authorities that the use of force against peaceful demonstrators has not quelled the discontent, either in Syria or in other countries across North Africa and the Middle East where similar protests have erupted this year.
OHCHR’s concerns echo those of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who spoke by telephone with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday, a day after a deadly confrontation between protesters and security forces in the southern city of Deraa.