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Leader of UN investigative team charges Syria with human rights violations

posted 24 Feb 2012, 02:20 by Mpelembe   [ updated 24 Feb 2012, 02:20 ]

A Brazilian academic charged with leading the United Nations team investigating the situation in Syria says the country's military is violating human rights.

GIVEN AS HOMS, SYRIA (UPLOADED FEBRUARY 23, 2012) (SOCIAL MEDIA WEBSITE) - The head of the independent investigative commission looking into Syria for the U.N. said on Thursday (February 23) that Syrian forces were arbitrarily detaining, torturing and shooting citizens.

As Syria's military pounded rebel-held Sunni Muslim districts of Homs for the 21st day, Paulo Pinheiro, the chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said residents are subject to random violations of their rights.

"Basically, they're arbitrary detentions," he said.

Pinheiro, a researcher with the University of Sao Paulo's Centre for the Study of Violence, headed the commission that concluded that Syrian forces had shot and killed unarmed women and children, shelled residential areas and tortured wounded protesters in a hospital under orders issued at the "highest levels" of the army and government.

"They're torturing and shooting people to death," he said.

Residents of Homs fear President Bashar al-Assad will subject the city to the same treatment his late father Hafez inflicted on the rebellious town of Hama 30 years ago, when thousands were killed.

The army is blocking medical supplies to parts of Homs and electricity is cut off for 15 hours a day, activists say.

In their report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, the investigators called for the perpetrators of such crimes against humanity to face prosecution and said they had drawn up a confidential list of names of commanders and officials alleged to be responsible.

The commission found that the Free Syrian Army, which is made up of thousands of troops who have defected and that has begun to co-ordinate with the exile-led SNC, had also committed abuses, "although not comparable in scale".

Syrian authorities have not responded, though they rejected the commission's previous report in November as "totally false." Damascus has said it is cracking down on terrorists.

Pinheiro rejected those claims.

"The civil population can't be affected because the government claims to be cracking down on armed people and terrorists," he said.

Despite international protests over Wednesday's death toll of more than 80 people, including two Western journalists, there has been a surge in government attacks on the city of Homs and mounting death toll.

Thousands have died in the 11-month revolt against Assad which has taken a sectarian slant. Most of the protesters trying to topple him are Sunnis, who make up 74 percent of Syria's 22 million population, while Assad is from the minority Alawite sect. Critics say he has filled senior posts with Alawites to impose his rule.