'Arab League should publish Syria monitors' report'

Human Rights Watch NGO urges League to reevaluate Mission's usefulness, calls for Syria arms embargo.

By
January 20, 2012 12:57
2 minute read.
Arab League monitors in Syria

Arab League monitors in Syria 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/via Reuters Tv/Handout)

 
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The Arab League should publicly release its Mission's final report on Syrian protests, Human Rights Watch declared Friday. In an open letter addressed to the Arab Foreign Ministers Council, the human rights NGO urged the League to "address concerns that the monitoring mission is being manipulated by the Syrian authorities."

The organization also urged the League to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court and to impose an arms embargo on Damascus in conjunction with the United Nations.

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Arab League monitors have been in Syria since December 26, verifying Syria's compliance with an Arab plan that called for an end to killings, an army withdrawal from the streets, release of detainees and a political dialogue.

In its letter, Human Rights Watch stated that "our research and other credible reports show that the Syrian government is failing in a number of respects to meet its commitments."

"Attacks by security forces against peaceful protests have been reported every day since the Arab League Mission began," it said, citing specific instances of Syrian forces opening fire on peaceful protesters. The British-based rights and advocacy group Avaaz lists at least 20 instances of security forces opening fire on protesters before, during or after a visit from the Arab monitors.

The letter also referenced the ongoing military deployment in cities, restricted movement of journalists, and the arbitrary arrest of activists.

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In light of its findings, Human Right Watch urged the Arab League to "publicly release the Mission’s final report and to specifically report on whether the Syrian government is complying with the protocol and whether and how the Syrian government is interfering with the work of the Mission." The NGO wrote that if the monitors have not been operating independently and effectively, the League should reconsider the usefulness of the Mission.

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Critics of the 165-strong mission say it has only bought more time for Assad to pursue a violent crackdown. Monitors are dependent on Syrian authorities for transport and security, compromising the Mission's independence in the eyes of critics. At least one monitor has already quit, calling the Mission a "farce". According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 454 civilians and 146 soldiers, including 27 deserters, have been killed since the monitors deployed.

Arab foreign ministers are set to meet on Sunday to decide the future of the observers, whose month-long mandate expired Thursday.

Reuters contributed to this article.

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