UN: 'Crimes against humanity' in Syria

2012-02-16 22:10

Beirut - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accused the Syrian regime of committing "almost certain" crimes against humanity on Thursday as activists reported fresh violence and the arrest of several prominent dissidents, including a US-born blogger.

Speaking to reporters in Vienna, Ban demanded the Syrian regime stop using indiscriminate force against civilians caught up in fighting between government troops and President Bashar Assad's opponents.

"We see neighbourhoods shelled indiscriminately," Ban told reporters in Vienna. "Hospitals used as torture centres. Children as young as ten years old jailed and abused. We see almost certain crimes against humanity."

Syrian activists said government forces attacked Daraa on Thursday, carrying out arrests and shooting randomly in the city where the uprising against Assad erupted 11 months ago.

They also reported intense clashes between army defectors and government troops in the central province of Hama.

The push into Daraa, located near the Jordanian border some 130km south of Damascus, followed sieges on the rebellious cities of Homs and Hama and appears to be part of an effort by the regime to extinguish major pockets of dissent.

Also on Thursday, the Local Co-ordination Committees, an umbrella group of activists, reported the arrest of a several activists, including Razan Ghazzawi, a US-born blogger and press freedom campaigner.

Ghazzawi, who was born in Miami, Florida, was arrested early in the uprising and charged with spreading false information, but she was released after about two weeks.

Impossible to confirm

The LCC said security forces also arrested leading human rights activist Mazen Darwish and others during a raid on their Damascus office. The reports could not be immediately confirmed.

The LCC said dozens of people were killed throughout the country on Thursday.

Another activist group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said security forces killed at least one civilian in Daraa, and that clashes between defectors and government troops there left at least three regime soldiers dead.

The deadliest fighting between troops and defectors took place in the village of Kfar Naboudeh in Hama province where government forces killed 10 defectors and four civilians, according to the Observatory.

The group said the defectors attacked an army checkpoint near the Hama town of Soran, killing four soldiers.

Death tolls are all but impossible to confirm in Syria, which has banned independent reporting.

The Syrian revolt started in March with mostly peaceful protests against the Assad family dynasty, but the conflict has become far more violent and militarised in recent months as army defectors fight back against government forces.

The UN General Assembly scheduled a vote for Thursday on an Arab-sponsored resolution strongly condemning human rights violations by the Syrian regime and backing an Arab League plan aimed at ending the conflict.

Assembly spokesperson Nihal Saad said on Wednesday that the vote will take place on Thursday afternoon. There are no vetoes in the 193-member world body and UN diplomats said the resolution, which already has 60 co-sponsors, is virtually certain to be approved.

Empty gesture

While General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, they do reflect world opinion on major issues and supporters are hoping for a high "yes" vote to deliver a strong message to Assad's regime.

On Wednesday, Assad ordered a February 26 referendum on a new constitution that would create a multiparty system in Syria, which has been ruled by the same family dynasty for 40 years.

Such a change would have been unheard of a year ago, and Assad's regime is touting the new constitution as the centrepiece of reforms aimed at calming Syria's upheaval.

But after almost a year of bloodshed, with well over 5400 dead in the regime's crackdown on protesters and rebels, Assad's opponents say the referendum and other promises of reform are not enough and that the country's strongman must go.

Assad's call for a referendum also raises the question of how a nationwide vote could be held at a time when many areas see daily battles between Syrian troops and rebel soldiers.

The US and France dismissed the referendum move as an.

"How can he propose a referendum... while continuing to shoot cannons at the innocent population at the centre of some Syrian cities," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told journalists Thursday in Vienna.

He added that France is working at the United Nations on a resolution inspired by the Arab League proposal that calls on Assad to hand power to his vice president.

In Washington, US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that Assad "knows what he needs to do if he really cares about his people".

Completely discredited

"The violence just needs to come to an end, and he needs to get out of the way so we can have a democratic transition," she told reporters

In Strasbourg, the speaker of the European Parliament said Assad's leadership was "completely discredited" and that his proposal to submit a new constitution to a referendum before a nation at war is "inconceivable".

"The European Parliament wants to see humanitarian corridors to be put into place and shelters provided for the growing numbers of displaced people," Martin Schulz said.

"The parliament urges the EU... to help strengthening the unity of the Syrian forces which oppose the regime inside and outside the country."

Russia, a top Syrian ally, has presented Assad's reform promises as an alternative way to resolve Syria's bloodshed. Earlier this month, Moscow and Beijing vetoed a Western- and Arab-backed resolution at the UN Security Council aimed at pressuring Assad to step down.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun will be in Syria on Friday and Saturday for talks on how to end the violence, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin said on Thursday. Zhai met a Syrian opposition delegation in Beijing last week.

"I believe the message of this visit is that China hopes for a peaceful and proper resolution of the Syrian situation, and that the Chinese side will play a constructive role in the mediation," Liu said.

On Thursday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported raids and shooting by Syrian troops in Daraa, along with renewed shelling in the rebellious neighbourhood of Baba Amr in Homs.

Homs has seen one of the deadliest assaults of the crackdown that activists say has killed hundreds in the past two weeks, aimed at crushing a city that has been a stronghold of dissent.

  • Cracker - 2012-02-16 22:39

    Listen UN and the two-face EU. Why are you not doing something about the current human abuses taking place in Libya? Many supported the actions against Gadaffi. Now we see no real action on your part to stop the current sh.t that is taking place in that country. People being tortured and killed. ON YOUR WATCH. We may just one day see an international court dealing with dereliction of duty.

      Fred - 2012-02-16 23:00

      The UN is being tied-down by the Russian and Chinese regimes. The EU is actively involved in assisting, notwithstanding it's serious financial problems. What do you propose be done?

      Fidel - 2012-02-17 10:02

      Because toppling Gaddafi was never about human rights, but securing oil countracts at favourable terms to western corporations and limiting the influence of China in Libyan and African affairs. How about Gaddafi proposing to replace the dollar for oil transaction, the same proposal advocated by Saddam, and encouraged by Iran.

      Fred - 2012-02-17 17:09

      In Fidel's world, yes. In the real world, no.

  • Anthony - 2012-02-16 23:07

    Hey' these Chinese are a bunch of slimy bastards. While the West is looking for ways to stop this assad BUTCHER murdering the Syrian opposition, the Chinese on the one hand stop the UN taking action against this dictator, and than at the same time invite the opposition to Beijing. So whatever way this civil war works out, it will be business as usual for them. They did the same in Libya, and ultimately it were the Chinese who were the big winners in that civil war!!!!!!

      Fred - 2012-02-16 23:41

      A small generalization there and stark prejudice, wouldn't you think, seeing as there are 1.3 billion Chinese people, all of whom I imagine you don't know. :)

      John - 2012-02-17 02:36

      Yep Anthony, 100% correct and the UN just goes yes sir no sir. The UN has become a Pit Bull with no teeth. The Chinese are the only winners in all these conflicts. The USA is always accused of being in any Mid East conflict for the oil, but the Chinese who are desperate for oil do it underhandedly, slimy little critters!

      Anthony - 2012-02-17 04:35

      @Fred, That is true, but my comment was aimed at the leadership, as it is difficult to ascertain what the 1.3 billion Chinese think !!!! Although somehow, I don't think their opinion will be that much different than that of the majority of people all over the world. Accept a few diehards who frequent this site, with their silly, childish, and outdated East-West rhetoric, most people are pretty disgusted , that one family of thugs, can be responsible for the murder of 7000 Syrians, so they can remain the MASTERS OF THEIR DESTINY!!!!!

      Fidel - 2012-02-17 10:09

      Anyone fairly reviewing what the US/Nato are doing in the Middle East and to muslims, and what the Chinese are doing in that region, will notice the difference as being night and day. Your views of the Middle East/reality must be warped from comedy central, which is comedy.

      Anthony - 2012-02-17 10:22

      Well, I am glad, that at times you seem to watch some comedy , and that you don't occupy your mind totally , about what garbage you are going to entertain us with, and spew out some more of the hatred, boiled up inside you.

      Fidel - 2012-02-17 11:07

      I guess I should read that again. I'm pretty sure you were trying to make a point, but I missed it.

      Fred - 2012-02-17 17:14

      Fidel, the obvious error in your view is that THE ARAB LEAGUE is driving the freer world's responses to the wonderful, but awfully violent, events happening in the Middle East. That's up to 350 million Muslims who are deciding what they want the Middle East to be like. But of course you don't see this at all, even reduce them to puppets, in your plastic world. Never mind, when Syria's Assad has fallen, and fall he will, and when Ahmadinejad and his cronies are gone, and go they will, and when the Russian and Chinese regimes have been changed, and changed they will be, your words will be even smaller and more hollow than they are today.

  • Fidel - 2012-02-17 08:06

    The UN should be doing what it was set up to do, and that is stopping conflicts. It should be asking all sides to stop firing. It doesn't make sense for it to request that the Syrian government end its aggression while allowing the insurgents to re-arm and advance their positions. These insurgents, like their government are unaccountable to no one even though they would like to claim that they represent Syrians citizens. They can never be allowed a free hand to do as they like. The UN should stop playing politics and take its mandate seriously,i.e require that both sides stop this slaughter.

      Fidel - 2012-02-17 09:27

      Reading is not you forte, hey Frank. Read my post again, slowly this time.

      Anthony - 2012-02-17 09:30

      As usual, with your silly anti Western thoughts, you miss the point. Firstly it is assad who gave instructions to his troops to start murdering UNARMED demonstrators. There is hundreds of hours of TV footage, including many cell phone videos, that show clearly that the demonstrators in Homs, had no weapons at all. But you probably believe these videos were taken in a Hollywood studio!!! It was only when these demonstrators saw that government snipers , on roof tops, were using live amunition on ANYBODY, that many of these demonstrators, got any arms they could lay their hands on. These ROTTEN snipers were not just shooting at defectors of the Syrian army, but on "ordinary" citizens, men ,women and even 10 year old kids. And than, you are right with one point. These demonstrators are not accountable to anyone. They are a total mixture of Syrian soceity, with only ONE common goal; To make an end to the tyranny of this 41 year assad dynasty. As we have seen in Libya, once these demonstrators are being terrorized and many of their friends killed, and they see the sheer brutality of this assad regime, it is very difficult to stop them. On the other hand, assad can put an end to his troops murdering his oppostion , WITHIN HOURS !!!! And THAT would be a first step to stop this madness.!!!!

      Fidel - 2012-02-17 09:48

      Anthony, pointing fingers is not going to help Syrians. What will help them is a cease fire. Syrians will then decide who they want their leader to be, not the UN, not NATO, and definately not you!

      Fidel - 2012-02-17 10:58

      There is nothing in your comment that warrants a serious effort to respond.

      Fred - 2012-02-17 17:19

      The UN, barring the self-centered Russian and Chinese regimes, is doing what it should: demanding that the aggressor, the Assad regime, end its assault on those Syrians who have been demonstrating peacefully for eleven months, and who only recently, in the last month or two, have taken up arms in self defense. The good thing about your ignorance and the actions of the Assad regime is that they are accelerating the fall of the Assad regime. They are amplifying the plight of the Syrian people, focusing attention on what is really happening, and sharpening intention to end the brutal rule of the cruel technocrat Bashar Assad. Not long now. And you'll be wrong again. By the way, Russia and Iran are arming and helping Assad, the aggressor. Of course not a word about this from you.

  • Matthew Nowicki - 2012-02-17 09:18

    "Almost certain"? Now why would the Chinese and Russians allow UN intervention if the allegations are only "almost certain" and both sides are armed, its absurd. The only way the Syrians will ever be in control of their own destiny is if this problem is sorted out internally. Yet already fighters are being imported and british special forces are directing the rebels on the ground. The western media won't tell you that though

      Fidel - 2012-02-17 10:10

      Try reading outside the predominantly right wing press.

      Anwar - 2012-02-17 10:22

      Anthony - 2012-02-17 10:27

      Yea, like reading some of Fidel's crap !!!!!

      Fidel - 2012-02-17 10:41

      I suggest that you do a little reading yourself rather then resorting to knee-jerk replies that have very little traction except with those whose prejudices colour their reasoning.

      Anthony - 2012-02-17 10:53

      Quite frankly, I dont think there is anyone outside there, slightest interested in all these silly comments. I am going to do some work. You have a goog day !!

      nowicki1 - 2012-02-17 11:45

      Sorry, here is my source :

      Anthony - 2012-02-17 12:05

      And while you are sourcing all these silly conspiracy sites, you might as well have a look at the ones , that will PROOF that the world is flat and that Australia is one of SA provinces!!!

      Fidel - 2012-02-17 12:30

      And why are these sites conspitorial Anthony, is it because they are run by independent people not affiliated to any corporate interests. These are sites run by respectable scholars who have researched extensively about their fields of expertise. Some of them are political lecturers, historians, doctors and professors who have seen the corporate-state excesses. They write because they love their countries and see all the lying and destruction perpetuated by their governments in their name. They are not paid commentators and don't rely on advertising revenue to stay on side. They are the most liberal free thinking and enlightened people you will ever find. “There is no such thing, at this stage of the world’s history in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dare write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with. Other of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my papers, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone." John Swinton

      Fidel - 2012-02-17 12:37

      Six corporations own all of the media in the US, just six, and these are the people that you want to rely on for all the information of what is happening in the world. Just six........ NBC UNIVERSAL CBS CORPORATION NEWS CORPORATION (MURDOCH) VIACOM WALT DISNEY TIME WARNER As Noam Chomsky reminds us, it is not the purpose of the mainstream media to question the corporate-state arrangement. That task has fallen to the Internet. You should try it!

      Fidel - 2012-02-17 12:50

      Should have been conspiratorial offcourse...and I saw that and didn't do anything about it when I had the chance...?

      Matthew Nowicki - 2012-02-17 13:37

      Thank you Fidel! Summed up nicely. Oh and btw, that was from an Israeli source, once again you probably didn't even look at it.

      Anthony - 2012-02-17 13:45

      @Fidel, WOW....SIX media companies in the USA , a country with a population of 300 million That is FIVE more than in CHINA , country with a population of 1.3 BILLION You were saying...................!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!??????????????

      Anthony - 2012-02-17 13:55

      No, no , Mathew Now don't go and confuse Fidel; YOU ARE EITHER WITH HIM OR YOU ARE HIS ENEMY. FULL STOP !!

      Fidel - 2012-02-17 14:36

      Do you get your news from China or from western sources, mainly the US and France? We are talking about the so-called conspiracy sites managed by western intellectualls. People who move the goal post every five seconds are as inane as they are boring. Remember, CONSPIRACY SITES....... Where does China come in all of this?

      Anthony - 2012-02-17 15:56

      Fidel, just between you and me, and I promise I won't tell anyone, Just quitly remove that post re the 6 media co's in the USA You are busy embarrassing yourself, and not even your buddies, who also worship dictators/tyrants and murderers will take you serious any longer!! Really, just do it.

      Fred - 2012-02-17 17:26

      Both sides are armed now, but for eleven months Bashar Assad has been picking off peaceful, unarmed demonstrators mainly with sniper-fire, killing six thousand, detaining and torturing thousands more. If left to you, the ANC would have received no support in its efforts to remove Apartheid.

      Fred - 2012-02-17 17:36

      Fidel, there aren't a handful of "intellectuals" who decide what is reported in the so-called Western media. This comes from someone used to dictatorships, centralized control of society, paternalism, nepotism, and chauvinism. Like your hero Moamar Gaddafi who's pushing up daisies now. As for China, they are a relic of this dying past. Anthony has told you, the Chinese regime is the last major country trying to control what its population thinks, by controlling the media and Internet. It's a futile attempt that's going to come crashing down in the near future. The march of human consciousness to greater freedom and responsibility will not, cannot be stopped.

      Fidel - 2012-02-17 20:51

      @Anthony Another unwarranted and ignorant ad hom. Try logic and argument. @Fred The MSM is concerntrated in the hands of a few people in the US, who are friends and they all push the same agenda. The internet isn't controlled by any interest groups and you are more likely to get a balanced view about world issues on the net. MSM is nothing but government mouth piece, the same thing you lot complain about in this country regarding SABC.

      Fred - 2012-02-17 21:06

      Fidel, coming from a Marxist view of the world, which has failed horribly everywhere it has been tried, your perspective is valid. Who invented the Internet? The US. And who is trying to control it? All the totalitarian regimes you love.

      nowicki1 - 2012-02-18 16:38

      All governments are trying to control it. you think SOPA was just to prevent piracy? Critical press is dead, journalism is under fire from spin doctors. How else do you think they gain public support for all these wars? Its because during times of war the American press acts like cheerleaders. If Americans new how their country was really run and how wealth and politics mix there would be a revolution tomorrow. Its the medias job to keep up the current paradigm until the whole thing implodes..

      Fred - 2012-02-20 17:45

      There you go again Matthew, smooshing everything together in one undifferentiated pile. The freer world is not China. There's a world of difference between freedom of expression in the freer world compared to China and the other, few remaining totalitarian states. As usual, you're upside down on things. You're supporting a totalitarian regime's (China) obstructionism to helping the citizens of a country free themselves from decades of oppression and censorship, and opposing the freer world's help for those people. In fact you're in a group of just 17 countries out of the 151 on Earth wanting to help, opposing 134 countries. "Upside-down Matthew".

      Matthew Nowicki - 2012-02-21 13:52

      I never said I supported China so stop saying I do. You talk about the freer world, there is no freedom in this world. Look around you, not much has changed since roman times. Money gives you freedom, without it, you may as well be a slave working your life away. Governments serve the rich and powerful while ignoring the needs of the common man. You always accuse me of supporting dictators yet I despise them as much as I despise all corrupt greedy governments and corporations (you seem to trust with all your heart) running the show. Power to the people. Peace love unity respect. Cheers

      Fidel - 2012-02-21 14:05

      Simply put, Debt Slavery!

  • Anwar - 2012-02-17 10:23

      Fred - 2012-02-17 17:30

      All of 269 views. And rightly so. Try last night's PBS Newshour instead:

  • pages:
  • 1