Human Rights Watch calls on UN to probe Syria violence

New York-based group says US, EU should impose sanctions on officials responsible for crackdown; UK advises British nationals to leave country.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
April 24, 2011 13:01
2 minute read.
Syrians shout slogans

Syrian protests 311. (photo credit: Reuters)

Human Rights Watch is calling on the United Nations to investigate Syria for its violent crackdown on protesters that left at least 112 dead over the weekend, the Associated Press reported on Sunday.

The New York-based group called on both the US and European Union to impose sanctions on those officials responsible for the violence.

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Secret police raided homes near Damascus overnight, rights campaigners said on Sunday, as popular opposition to Syria's authoritarian President Bashar Assad increased following bloody attacks on pro-democracy protesters.

Security forces and gunmen loyal to Assad have killed at least 112 people over the last two days. They fired at protesters demanding political freedoms and an end to corruption on Friday and on mass funerals for victims a day later.

The attacks were the bloodiest, and the demonstrations the biggest, since protests erupted in the southern city of Deraa near the border with Jordan over five weeks ago.

Security operatives in plain clothes wielding assault rifles broke into homes in the suburb of Harasta just after midnight on Sunday, arresting activists in the area, known as the Ghouta, or the old garden district of the capital.

Assad lifted an emergency law on Thursday, in place since his Baath Party seized power 48 years ago, in a bid to appease protesters and ease international criticism. Opponents say the crackdown that followed shows the move was hollow.

"Bashar Assad, you traitor, you coward. Take your soldiers to the Golan," protesters chanted on Saturday, chiding Assad for turning his forces on his own people instead of recapturing the Golan Heights, where the frontier with Israel has been quiet since a 1974 ceasefire.

Assad assumed power when his father died in 2000 after ruling Syria for 30 years. The hostile chants reflect a steady hardening of the demands of protesters who first called for greater freedoms but now seek his overthrow.

International condemnation of Assad has also intensified. Western criticism was initially muted because of lingering hopes that Assad might implement genuine reform and because revolution in Syria could reshape the political map in the Middle East.

Assad has strengthened his father Hafez Assad's anti-Israel alliance with Iran and supported Hezbollah and Hamas. He also re-established Syrian influence in Lebanon and has held indirect peace talks with Israel.

"I deplore the increasing violence in Syria, and am appalled by the killing of demonstrators by Syrian security forces," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Sunday, advising all British nationals to leave Syria.

Click for full Jpost coverage of turmoil in the Middle East


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