GENEVA - Syria is now in a state of civil war with more than 4,000 dead and increasing numbers of defecting soldiers taking up arms against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, the top United Nations human rights official said on Thursday.
"We are placing the figure at 4,000, but really the reliable information coming to us is that it is much more than that," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told a news conference.
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"I have said that as soon as there were more and more defectors threatening to take up arms, I said this in August before the Security Council, there was going to be a civil war. At the moment that's how I am characterizing this," she said.
Violence continued throughout the week in Syria, as
troops shot dead six civilian protesters and army defectors killed
seven soldiers on Wednesday and regional pressure grew on Assad to
withdraw forces from restive cities, free prisoners and start talks with
Syria's biggest trade partner Turkey suspended
all financial credit dealings with Damascus and froze its assets,
joining the Arab League in isolating Assad over his military crackdown.
The United States urged other countries to follow suit.
The world's largest Muslim body, the Organization of Islamic Conference,
urged Syria on Wednesday to "immediately stop the use of excessive
force" against its citizens so as to avert any prospect of foreign
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the
rule of Assad, which began in 2000 and followed 31 years of power by his
father Hafez Assad, had reached "the end of the road."
had $2.5 billion in bilateral trade with Syria last year and was long
one of Assad's closest allies, but Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has
lost patience with him. Turkey now hosts Syrian army defectors and
Under the terms of an Arab League deal aimed
at ending the violence, Syria agreed earlier this month to withdraw the
army from urban centers, free political prisoners, launch a dialogue
with the opposition and admit League observers.
Syria has freed
912 prisoners held for taking part in anti-Assad protests, the state
news agency SANA said on Wednesday, because they did "not have Syrian
blood on their hands."
The move appeared to be a gesture towards
Arab League calls for an end to the crisis, but the number of freed
detainees would only be a small fraction of the total reported by rights
activists to have been arrested.
United Arab Emirates Foreign
Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said he was still hoping
Syria would admit monitors and avoid further sanctions.
and Arab diplomats say the top United Nations human rights forum will
paint a grim picture of events in Syria at a special session on Friday
and is expected to accuse Assad's government of authorizing crimes