Amnesty: Syria's diplomats harass dissidents

Rights group accuses diplomats in foreign capitals of harassment and threats; Amnesty demands West take action against abuses.

anti assad 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Francois Lenoir )
anti assad 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Francois Lenoir )
LONDON - Syrian diplomats in foreign capitals are mounting campaigns of harassment and threats against expatriate dissidents protesting outside their embassies, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
Syrian opposition supporters have mounted noisy protests outside many embassies in recent months as the government of Bashar Assad has tried to put down unrest with what observers say has been a bloody crackdown.
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Amnesty said embassy officials had filmed and threatened some of those involved in protests outside Syria, and that in some cases relatives in Syria had been deliberately targeted for harassment, detention, torture and outright disappearance.
"Expatriate Syrians have been trying, through peaceful protest, to highlight abuses that we consider amount to crimes against humanity - and that presents a threat to the Syrian regime," said Neil Sammonds, Amnesty International's Syria researcher.
"In response the regime appears to have waged a systematic - sometimes violent - campaign to intimidate Syrians overseas into silence. This is yet more evidence that the Syrian government will not tolerate legitimate dissent and is prepared to go to great lengths to muzzle those who challenge it publicly."
Syrian officials have generally denied reports of human rights abuses, with the Assad government saying it has no choice but to restore law and order and avert chaos.
The group said it had documented cases of more than 30 activists in eight countries - Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Britain and the United States - who had faced some form of direct intimidation.
In many cases, those protesting outside Syrian embassies complained they had been initially filmed or photographed by officials and then received phone calls, e-mails and Facebook messages warning them to stop.
In some cases, those contacting them openly admitted they were embassy officials, demanding they stop any kind of political action and threatening a variety of consequences.