A United Nations panel today voiced deep concern about massive human rights violations in Syria, including the reported torture of children, as the Government’s violent crackdown against protesters continues.
The UN Committee against Torture, which is concluding its 47th session in Geneva, has reviewed “numerous, consistent and substantiated” reports and information about widespread rights violations in the country, it stated in a news release.
The violations include cases of torture and ill-treatment of detainees; rife or systematic attacks against civilian population, including the killing of peaceful demonstrators and the use of excessive of force against them; and the persecutions of human rights defenders and activists.
“Of particular concern are reports referring to children who have suffered torture and mutilation while detained, as well as cases of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, arbitrary detention by police forces and the military, and enforced and involuntary disappearances,” stressed Claudio Grossman, who currently heads the 10-member expert panel.
More than 3,500 people have died in Syria since an uprising, similar to the protests demanding reforms in other countries across North Africa and the Middle East, began early this year.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other top UN officials have repeatedly called for an end to the killings in Syria, accountability for the crimes committed and the protection of human rights.
Mr. Ban remains extremely concerned at the escalating crisis, and welcomed the efforts of the League of Arab States to end the bloodshed and promote a political solution, UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters in New York today.
“The Secretary-General welcomes in particular the Arab League’s proposal to send an observer mission to protect civilians in Syria, and strongly urges the Syrian authorities to give their consent and full cooperation,” he stated, adding that Mr. Ban stands ready to provide support.
The Committee said it is alarmed by the fact that the reports of massive human rights violations are occurring amid “total and absolute impunity,” as prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations have not been undertaken in such cases.
“These generalised abuses are allegedly conducted under direct orders from public authorities, at their instigation or with their consent or acquiescence,” Mr. Grossman said.
The Committee is tasked with monitoring the implementation of the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which has been ratified by 149 States, including Syria.
It requested the Government to provide it with a special report by 9 March 2012 that indicates the measures it is taking to ensure effective implementation of the Convention, as well as information on the events occurring in the country the Committee has referred to.
The expert panel will review the special report during its next session in May 2012.
In a related development, the head of the UN agency tasked with defending press freedom today condemned the brutal killing of Syrian cameraman Ferzat Jarban and called on the authorities to respect the basic right of freedom of expression.
Mr. Jarban was reportedly arrested after filming anti-Government protests in al-Qasir on 19 November, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said in a news release. His “severely mutilated” body was found the next morning.
“This ruthless attack must not go unpunished,” stated UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “It is a violation of the basic human right of freedom of expression and of journalists’ inalienable right and duty to carry out their work in safety and without hindrance.
“I call on the Government of Syria to stop all forms of violence against journalists immediately. I also appeal to the authorities to put an end to flagrant repression against those who report on current events in the country,” she added.
According to the non-governmental Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Mr. Jarban is the first journalist reported to have been killed since the crackdown against protesters began eight months ago. The group is investigating a number of cases concerning journalists who have gone missing in the country.