16 Killed in Syria as UN Panel Condemns Damascus

Posted November 22nd, 2011 at 5:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday faced mounting international pressure to end his crackdown on dissent after the United Nations General Assembly's human rights committee voted to “strongly condemn” the situation in the country.

The resolution, introduced Monday by Germany, expresses concern about Mr. Assad's failure to implement an Arab League initiative that would allow the grouping to send monitors to Syria. The measure also strongly condemns what it says are “continued grave and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities,” including arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the killing of protesters and human rights defenders.

Syria received support in voting against the motion by friendly countries such as Iran, Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela. But its closest and most powerful ally, Russia, abstained, as did China.

The Arab League, which has suspended Syria's membership, plans to meet on Thursday to discuss the Syrian crisis.

Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA security forces killed at least 16 people across the country Tuesday. Dr. Mousab Azzawi said there is a humanitarian crisis in Hama, while in the small town of Tiba, security forces arrested 148 people during raids on their houses and declared a curfew there. Dr. Azzawi also noted the growing participation of university students in anti-government protests.

Amnesty International welcomed Tuesday's U.N. committee vote. The rights group has accused Syrian authorities of human rights violations.

The United Nations says the number of people killed during the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad has topped 3,500. The Syrian government has blamed much of the deadly violence on gunmen and “terrorists.”

Earlier in the day, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Mr. Assad to step down. In a televised speech, he said the Syrian president should cede power for the welfare of his own people and the region.