Saturday, July 9, 2011

Systematic torture and killings in Syria: Where is the UNSC?

The rapid response of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to recent uprisings in Ivory Coast and Libya gave the UNSC a new face and sent a strong message to oppressors that the council would swiftly take "all necessary measures" to protect abused and violated civilians. The council did not take long to condemn violence in Libya and unanimously voted in favor of the historic Resolution 1970 (2011) that imposed sanctions (travel bans, arms embargo and asset freezes) on the Gaddafi regime and referred the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Unfortunately, the UNSC has so far failed to condemn a similar situation in Syria - where systematic torture, state-sponsored murder and extrajudicial killing of civilians and pro-democracy protesters is the order of the day.

Since demonstrations erupted in Syria in February and picked up steam in mid-March 2011, rights groups have documented widespread and systematic violence against civilians calling for democracy and human rights. Amnesty International has championed the call for the UNSC to intervene, stop bloodshed and refer the situation in Syria to the ICC. The organization believes that crimes committed in Syria by members of the security forces amount to crimes against humanity.

On 6 June 2011, Amnesty published a new report - shining light on ongoing torture, extrajudicial killings and arbitrary detentions in Syria. Once again, more than two months after its initial call, the organization urged the UNSC to refer Syria to the ICC.

Last night, I read the 22-paged report. It documents the plight of civilians in Syria and highlights the need for the international community to act against Syria's heavy-handed crackdown on protesters.

According to the report, which focuses on violence in the western town of Tell Kalakh, the state uses snipers and heavy artillery against civilians. Security forces open fire on ambulances, destroy water supplies, loot and vandalize private property, arbitrarily arrest, torture and murder Syrians, including children. Victims include lawyers, electricians, construction workers, hairdressers, painters, shopkeepers and retired army officers. No one is spared!

Security forces use untold torture techniques, such as what is locally called "shabah" (ghost) and "dulab" (tyre).

After reading the report , titled: "Crackdown in Syria: Terror in Tell Kalakh", I'm convinced more than ever that the situation in Syria should be referred to the ICC. Those responsible for murder, systematic torture and other forms of cruel and inhuman treatment of civilians should be investigated and brought to book.

UNSC silence on the dire situation in Syria emboldens the brutal Assad regime and puts the council's "swift and decisive" intervention in Libya into question. Double standards undermine the reputation and credibility of the UNSC.

More than 1,350 civilians and 350 security agents have reportedly lost their lives in Syria since mid-March 2011. [Source].

*Photo: The FINANCIAL.

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