UN rights chief urges justice for Syria abuses

AP News
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Posted: Jun 15, 2011 12:05 PM

The U.N.'s top human rights official called Wednesday for a full investigation of alleged abuses carried out by Syrian authorities against anti-government protesters, but acknowledged that Damascus has ignored past requests by her office to allow expert observers into the country.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said her office has received reliable reports that up to 10,000 people have been detained and over 1,100 have been killed, most of them unarmed civilians.

"Among those detained, human rights defenders, political activists, and journalists were particularly targeted," Pillay told the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Her office "has received information indicating that Syrian security forces have perpetrated acts of torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment ... resulting in deaths in custody in some cases," she said.

The Geneva-based Human Rights Council established a fact-finding mission in April, which was meant to visit Syria and investigate allegations of abuse.

"I regret to report that, despite several official communications requesting the government of Syria to grant access to the fact-finding mission, I have received no response," said Pillay.

The team is now meeting with Syrian refugees who have fled across the border to Turkey, to hear their stories, she said.

The government's attempts so far to shed light on incidents of alleged mass killing have been unsatisfactory, she said.

"I consider wholly inadequate the Syrian government's invitation to hand-picked journalists to visit selected areas in order to document the existence of an alleged mass grave and the 'confessions' of members of 'armed groups'," Pillay told the council, referring to an incident June 6 in the northern town of Jisr al-Shughour.