Syria Grants Red Cross Access to Prison

Posted September 5th, 2011 at 1:05 pm (UTC-5)
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The International Committee of the Red Cross says Syria has given the humanitarian organization access to a detention facility in the country for the first time since opposition activists launched a pro-democracy uprising in March.

ICRC chief Jakob Kellenberger said Monday the Syrian government allowed a Red Cross delegation to visit the Damascus central prison. Kellenberger says he also discussed the government's violent crackdown on the uprising in a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The ICRC chief says he spoke to Mr. Assad about the “rules governing the use of force by security forces and the obligation to respect the physical and psychological well-being and human dignity of detainees.” He appealed for the wounded and sick to be granted medical care.

Kellenberger welcomed what he called Syria's “progress” in providing access to areas affected by ongoing violence.

Syria's state-run SANA news agency says Mr. Assad told Kellenberger it is important to examine the country's situation directly in light of what the Syrian president called “massive media distortion.”

Syrian rights activists say government forces continued their deadly crackdown on Monday, killing at least six people in attacks on towns and villages in Syria's center and north, where protesters have called for Mr. Assad's ouster.

The activists say Monday's killings include two people shot dead in the central province of Homs and one northern villager who was shot as he tried to flee across the Turkish border. They said Syrian troops were conducting a manhunt for one of the highest-ranking Syrian officials to defect to the opposition, Hama's provincial attorney-general, Adnan Bakkour.

Bakkour appeared in two Internet videos last week declaring his resignation in protest at killings of Hama residents by Assad loyalists. The Syrian government said he had been kidnapped by an armed gang that forced him to make the statement. Bakkour denied being kidnapped in one of the videos. His whereabouts are unknown.

The United Nations says more than 2,200 people have been killed in the Syrian government's crackdown since March, when protesters began calling for reforms and an end to Mr. Assad's 11-year rule.