Opposition leader quits, says group is failing Syrians | News | DW | 24.05.2012
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Opposition leader quits, says group is failing Syrians

The outgoing leader of the Syrian National Council has said the opposition group has failed the Syrian people, as three separate reports point to serious and widespread human rights abuses in the country.

A deeply divided opposition has failed the Syrian people, according to the outgoing leader of the opposition in Syria, Burhan Ghalioun. Ghalioun stepped down from his role on Thursday, as a new parliament dominated by the ruling Baath party held its first session in Damascus.

Ghalioun said he was stepping aside to avert divisions within the SNC after activists in Syria accused him of monopolizing power. Speaking to the AFP news agency after the main opposition Syrian National Council accepted his resignation as leader, he said the chasm in its ranks between Islamist and secularists had let down the Syrian people and played into Assad's hands.

"We were not up to the sacrifices of the Syrian people. We did not answer the needs of the revolution enough and quickly enough," Ghalioun said.

'UN redundant as guardian of global peace'

The US State Department issued its annual report on human rights practices during 2011 on Thursday. The report celebrated "dramatic changes" that took place around the globe but also noted negative developments in Syria, Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Eritrea and Sudan.

But the document also denounced "heinous and widespread human rights abuses'" committed by forces loyal to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

"In some places, like Syria, it is not just an assault on freedom of expression or freedom of association, but an assault on the very lives of citizens," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a press conference.

The report comes hot on the heels of brief released by Amnesty International stating that "the pattern and scale of state abuses may have constituted crimes against humanity."

In its 50th annual report on the state of human rights in the world, Amnesty pointed to the 14-month long crisis in Syria as a demonstration of the UN Security Council's unwillingness to act, making the body look "redundant as a guardian of global peace."

"Without a strong treaty, the UN Security Council's guardianship of global peace and security seems doomed to failure; its permanent members wielding an absolute veto on any resolution despite being the world's largest arms suppliers," the report said.

Serious human rights violations

In a separate move, the Geneva-based UN-appointed Commission of Inquiry on Syria said the army and the security forces were behind the majority of serious abuses committed since March this year as they hunt down defectors and opponents.

"Most of the serious human rights violations documented by the Commission in this update were committed by the Syrian army and security services as part of military or search operations conducted in locations known for hosting defectors and/or armed persons, or perceived as supportive of anti-government armed groups," said the panel.

The report also pointed to a growing number of abuses committed by anti-government forces in Syria - citing the executions of captured soldiers or suspected informants, the use of roadside bombs and hostage-taking.

According to the most recent UN estimate, which was issued at the end of March, at least 9,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Syria. Other more recent estimates from rights groups stretch as high as 12,600.

The allegations came as government forces pounded the rebel stronghold of Rastan in Central Syria for an 11th consecutive day, killing at least three civilians, according to Amnesty.

hw/msh (AFP, dpa)