Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed “increasingly grave concern” about the situation inside Syria, where hundreds of peaceful demonstrators protesting against the Government have been killed or injured in recent days.
Mr. Ban – who has spoken twice by telephone with President Bashar al-Assad to voice his concerns – gave a closed-door briefing to Security Council members this afternoon on the latest developments in the Middle East country.
“I condemn, utterly, the continuing violence against peaceful demonstrators, most particularly the use of tanks and live fire that have killed and injured hundreds of people,” he told journalists after the briefing.
“It goes without saying that Syrian authorities have an obligation to protect civilians and respect international human rights. That includes the right to free expression and peaceful assembly.”
Mr. Ban said that B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, would give a further briefing to Council members tomorrow on the situation in Syria, after which the 15-member panel would hold consultations on the issue.
The Secretary-General and Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, have both called for an independent, transparent and effective investigation into the killings.
“I remain convinced that only an inclusive dialogue and genuine reform can address the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and restore peace and social order.”
A spokesperson for Ms. Pillay told journalists in Geneva that reports indicated that at least 100 people were killed just between Friday and Sunday, with many others arrested in the same period.
The spokesperson said Ms. Pillay’s office wanted to visit the country to make an independent assessment of the situation on the ground, and Mr. Ban said he hoped the High Commissioner would be able to visit.
The protests in Syria are part of a broader uprising across the Middle East and North Africa since the start of the year. Long-standing regimes in Tunisia and Egypt have fallen and conflict has broken out in Libya, while security forces in many other countries – including Yemen and Bahrain – have cracked down on the demonstrators.