News / Middle East

UN Rights Chief: Both Sides Responsible for Serious Abuses in Syria

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay answers reporter's questions during a recess of Security Council consultations at the UN headquarters in New York, July 2, 2012.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay answers reporter's questions during a recess of Security Council consultations at the UN headquarters in New York, July 2, 2012.
Margaret Besheer
UNITED NATIONS — As international efforts to shift the direction in Syria from armed conflict to political transition continue with little progress so far, the United Nations's top human rights official warned Monday that the crisis risks escalating and that both sides are responsible for serious abuses.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told reporters that the provision of arms to Syrian government forces and the armed opposition is fueling violence, and that any further militarization of the conflict must be avoided.

Pillay put the blame on both sides and said the government had committed numerous violations.

“Indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas, targeted killings of activists and opposition supporters, arbitrary detentions, torture and rape as well as attacks on hospitals and clinics, and using health facilities for military operations,” she said.

Pillay also detailed violations by the opposition. “The violations on part of opposition forces include killings of suspected government informers and perceived collaborators; the increasing use of improvised explosive devices causing civilian deaths and injuries.  And we have credible reports that indicate that armed groups have also taken over at least one medical facility for military purposes,” she said.

Pillay said she repeated her call to the Security Council urging the U.N.’s most powerful body to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

“I believe that the evidence points to the commission of crimes against humanity," she said.  "The government of Syria attributes these violations to terrorists.  The government should grant independent investigators access to the country to verify this information.  I stand ready to send my staff to investigate this allegation on the part of the government.”

As the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria, or UNSMIS, enters a third week of suspension due to escalating violence on the ground and its future is in doubt, Navi Pillay urged the Security Council to strengthen and support the 300 unarmed observers, so they can monitor and report.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud said the council will be discussing the mission’s future as the July 20 deadline for renewing its mandate approaches.  He said one thing is clear, the monitors by themselves cannot stop the violence.  For that, he said, a political process is needed.

“So the question will be - but we will have to think about it - 'Are we going to withdraw all the mission or part of the mission?  Are we going to keep the observers in the region or are we going to keep them in Damascus?'  Of course, it will depend on what is going to happen in the coming days.  If by any chance there is a political process starting, of course, it will be different and the observers will be useful and even necessary.  If it’s not the case, I think we will have to look at the options from closing the mission to downgrading it,” said the ambassador.

But the possibility of a political transition starting soon remains doubtful, as Syrian opposition groups rejected the Geneva meeting’s roadmap for a political transition, saying vague language that leaves open the possibility of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad being part of an interim government is unacceptable.

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by: Alex from: Greece
July 03, 2012 12:13 PM
wasn't the UN Human Rights Chief chaired by Syria not long ago...??? Israel President Netanyahoo was right... you can't make these things up... such a joke this UN is...


by: Godwin from: Nigeria
July 03, 2012 10:10 AM
The civilized world can stop arms sales to any country of the world if they choose to, but who is going to stop or tell Russia what to do when its ally is in trouble and bloodthirsty? Who is going to control what Tehran does with its terrorist network - such a person or group can lay claim to stopping terrorism the world over. For the lack of control in sale of arms to both Syria and its opposition group(s) is the inability of the world to put to check Iran's sale of arms to various terrorist groups all over the world, thus making it still difficult to actually determine how hard the oil embargo is going to bite its economy whose chief income is illegal sale of arms. The end is not in sight except someone finds way of curbing Iran, and even if the UN observer team will be in danger of losing their lives if sent back there in the present condition, as neither Moscow nor Tehran truly values human life.


by: Godwin from: Nigeria
July 03, 2012 9:52 AM
The agenda of the Arab Spring is for a totalitarian government, an autocracy based on sharia. The Syrian opposition is toeing the same line which has only partially been achieved in Egypt (time will tell). Rejection of Assad in the arrangement is not a way to negotiate peace but to impose themselves on the people of Syria. They forget that Assad came from a constituency and has supporters, why must they seek his exclusion? Now Assad appears to dance along in order to pay Israel back in their own coin for lending their support to the opposition, this is chaotic. Both parties are playing a dangerous game of chance (Israel and Assad), but the middle line should be what comes after which may be for the UN to advice - maintain existing treaties. Assad is guilty, now he'll say he thought the people he's killing are Israelis. The opposition is destroying the country, they'll claim they thought Assad wanted to make peace with Israel. The entire crisis in the Middle East finds definition in what's happening in Syria


by: NVO from: usa
July 02, 2012 8:54 PM
The UN is an absolute SHAM! They are a bunch of Global Elites pushing for a ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT under THE NEW WORLD ORDER. DO NOT BE DECEIVED BY THEIR SECRET AGENDA. BEWARE OF PROJECT ESHELON!!!

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