News / Middle East

Congressional Panel Calls for UN Action on Syrian Government Repression of Demonstrators

Michael Posner, the assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (file photo)
Michael Posner, the assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (file photo)
Cindy Saine

Experts have told a hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on Capitol Hill that the human rights situation in Syria is grim and deteriorating.  The hearing comes a day after Syrian soldiers stood by and did nothing as pro-government mobs stormed the U.S. and French embassies in Damascus.

The Obama administration reacted angrily Monday to the attacks on the U.S. and French embassy compounds, accusing the Syrian government of trying to deflect attention from Syria's brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a strong statement Monday, saying that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has "lost legitimacy" and that he is not indispensable to the country's future.  At Tuesday's human rights hearing, Michael Posner, the assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor also condemned the attacks on the embassies.

"We view these incidents as further evidence that President Assad's government continues to be the real source of instability in Syria," said Posner. "He has promised reforms, but he has delivered no meaningful changes.  He talks about dialogue, but he continues to engage in violence that prove his rhetoric hollow."

Syrian state media condemned Secretary Clinton's remarks, calling it additional evidence of what it called "flagrant interference" by the United States in Syria's internal affairs.

But Assistant Secretary of State Posner said that the widening pro-democracy protests in Syria have nothing to do with the United States, but with the strength of the Syrian people to take to the streets. Posner said the "wall of fear" has fallen in Syria, and that the United States will stand with the Syrian people.

"The Syrian people have shown that they will not cease their demands for dignity and a future free from intimidation and fear," he said.

More than 1,000 Syrian civilians have been killed since anti-government protests began in March.

Mara Karlin of The John Hopkins University outlined what Syrians are facing.

"Reports emanating from around the country tell tales of mass arrests, gruesome torture, attacks on religious sites, killings during peaceful funeral marches and the murder of young Syrians," said Karlin. "The injured have been denied medical attention, indeed on occasion, Syrians security forces have taken over hospitals, in an effort to better target and eliminate protesters."

She and other experts at the hearing called on the United States to take a leading role in trying to move the United Nations to condemn the Syrian government after four months of repression of pro-democracy demonstrators.  The Security Council has not taken action because of opposition by Russia and China.

"While we may have our European allies on board, but we really need to work with other critical players, namely Russia, regional powers such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia," she said.

None of the experts at the hearing called for outside military intervention in Syria.  But Radwan Ziadeh,  a Syrian human rights activist with the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, did ask President Barack Obama to take a public stand.

"I think it is important for President Obama to make a live and on television statement calling on Bashir [al-]Assad to step down immediately," said Ziadeh.

The United States has stopped short of calling on President Assad to resign, though U.S. officials have strongly condemned Syrian government violence against protesters.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs