UN Human Rights Council hears appeals, accusations over Syria | News | DW | 12.03.2012
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UN Human Rights Council hears appeals, accusations over Syria

Diplomats are addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council, from both sides of the Syrian conflict, as the daily death toll climbs unabated.

Syrian civilians are in dire straits, according to United Nations Human Rights investigator Paulo Pinheiro, who addressed the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday.

"The exodus continues to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. The desperate situation of civilians needs to be addressed as a matter of utmost urgency," he said.

"The intensification of armed confrontations has widened the trail of suffering," said Pinheiro, who heads the Council's independent panel looking into the situation in Syria. His group has not been granted access to Syria, however.

The panel has found that Syria's government has collectively punished civilians and carried out executions and mass arrests in Baba Amr, a district of Homs. A month of shelling by government forces had resulted in utter devastation for the urban center, Pinheiro added.

"Those who fled the area reported summary executions and mass arbitrary arrest campaigns," he told the Council.

That comes as corpses, including those of women and children, numbering anywhere between 12 and 50 were found in Homs on Monday. Many of the bodies were found to have traces of torture. Some had their throats cut, activists said. The Syrian opposition has accused Syrian gunmen of the "massacre," whilst state television attributed the killings to "armed terrorist gangs."

Syrian response

Syria's own envoy to the UN proceedings in Geneva leveled accusations at Israel of supplying arms to the rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Ambassador Fayssal al-Hamwi told the Council that Israel was funneling weapons to rebel groups and foreign fighters linked with "al Qaeda which has penetrated the country from 13 different countries."

"The crisis is not due to peaceful protests or demands for reform," al Hamwi said. "The crisis is due to the influence of external parties bent on afflicting my country, waging a media war against Syria and imposing economic sanctions against the Syrian people."

Annan in Turkey

Meanwhile, the joint UN-Arab League peace envoy, Kofi Annan, arrived in Ankara on Monday to meet with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"There are grave and appalling reports of atrocities and abuses," Annan told reporters upon his arrival. "The killing of civilians must stop now. The world has to send a clear and united message in this regard."

The UN estimates that more than 7,500 people have been killed in the year since civil unrest began in Syria.

sjt/dfm (AFP, AP, Reuters)