Report: Possible “Crimes Against Humanity” in Syria

Posted June 1st, 2011 at 7:35 am (UTC-5)
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Rights group Human Rights Watch says it has reports of recent killings and torture by Syrian troops that may qualify as crimes against humanity.

The New York-based group released a report Wednesday based on interviews with more than 50 interviews with victims and witnesses of the violence. The report centers on the southern city of Daraa, where Syrian forces are reported to have carried out some of the worst violence against civilians since anti-government protests began in March.

The report says witnesses have reported systematic beatings, torture using electroshock devices, and detention of people seeking medical care. It called on the Syrian government to take steps immediately to halt the use of excessive force.

In Turkey, more than 300 Syrian dissidents are meeting Wednesday in the Turkish town of Antalya to discuss ways to bring about regime change in their homeland.

On Tuesday, Syrian state television announced that President Bashar al-Assad is offering a general amnesty to opponents of the government including the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. But critics in Syria and abroad have said the amnesty is too little, too late.

Also Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the reported torture and killing of a 13-year-old Syrian boy demonstrates the “total collapse” of any effort by Assad's government to “work with and listen to” its people.

Witness reports in Syria, as well as official accounts, are difficult to verify independently because the government barred most international journalists from the country soon after the unrest began in March.

Syrian opposition activists have been protesting almost daily since March for democratic reforms and an end to President Assad's 11-year autocratic rule. Rights groups say Mr. Assad's security forces have killed more than 1,000 people and arrested 10,000 more in a campaign to crush the uprising.