UN Human Rights Council To Pressure Syria to End Crackdown

Posted August 22nd, 2011 at 1:30 pm (UTC-5)
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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says it is “troubling” that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has not kept his word about ending the brutal military crackdown in his country.

Mr. Ban told reporters in New York Monday that the Syrian president assured him in a recent phone conversation that military operations had stopped. His remarks came as the U.N. Human Rights Council pressed the Syrian government to end its crackdown on political unrest.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the council Monday that the Syrian government has resorted to an apparent “shoot-to-kill” policy against civilians. She said the conflict has killed more that 2,200 people as of Monday.

The U.N. special rapporteur on torture also told the Council Monday that the “threshold of systematic and widespread violence has clearly been reached.”

Monday's U.N. Human Rights Council session on Syria followed a request by 24 of its members, including all four Arab nations on the Council – Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. A U.N. team in Syria continues its investigation of the humanitarian situation in the country.

Syrian President Assad has defended his crackdown on the unrest by describing the opposition as armed gangs and terrorists. He also says criticism from Western countries means nothing to him.

Mr. Assad said during a lengthy interview with Syria's state-run television Sunday that his security forces are making gains against the five-month-old uprising. He said he is “not worried” about the uprising, and he warned of consequences for any military action against his country.

The United States, the European Union and other Western powers have said that Mr. Assad must step down.

Mr. Assad repeated plans to introduce reforms, adding that he expects new elections for Syria's national assembly in six months. He said that laws on the establishment of new political parties will be ready in the next few days, and that people who want to create a new party will have a 45-day period to apply through a committee.