Syria : Escalation of violence in a context of impunity

The discovery of 13 bodies in the area of Deir Ez-Zor reported by the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) on May 30, a few days after the El Houleh killings, confirms the urgent need for an immediate and unfettered investigation of these incidents by an independent and impartial international body.

On May 27, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, already urged the Syrian authorities to fully assist such an investigation into the killing of at least 90 people in the El Houleh area of Homs.

According to UN observers, the 13 bodies discovered in Assukar (50 kilometers away from the city of Deir Ez-Zor) on the evening of May 29 had their hands tied behind their back and some appear to have been shot in the head from a short distance. In addition to attacks by government artillery and tank shellings on the village of El Houleh, the killing of civilians due to close range shooting and severe physical abuse have also been reported. Several reports suggest that pro-government paramilitary group could be responsible for those crimes.

«In its May 27 press statement, the UN Security Council demanded that those responsible for the crimes committed in El Houleh be held accountable ; in this regard, the truth must be disclosed about this incident and obviously, there is no way this can be achieved through domestic investigation. Therefore, the UNSC should urge Syria to fully cooperate with the UN commission of Inquiry », said Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH.

International crimes have been perpetrated for more than 15 months in Syria. The UN estimates that more than 9,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed. Crimes against humanity and other international crimes have allegedly been perpetrated on a wide-scale. With the El Houleh killings, the Syrian authorities furthermore violated UNSC resolutions 2042 and 2043, which urged all parties to cease violence in all its forms. "The UN Security Council should consider without any further delay referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, as to hold those most responsible for the these crimes accountable and eventually deter further crimes," added Belhassen.

The above mentioned resolutions are based on Annan’s six-point proposal paving the path for a political solution to the Syrian crisis. A possible «Yemen-style solution» agreement, which could grant immunity to those responsible for grave human rights violations in exchange of a power transfer, could be currently taking place. FIDH recalls that such a deal could lead the international community to contravene international law. "Any political solution must ensure that the rights of victims to justice and reparation are upheld. The international community must act accordingly", concluded Belhassen.

Despite the extreme difficulties and hazardous conditions faced by UNSMIS, FIDH insists that Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point plan, must be implemented without any further delay.

The ultimatum issued by the rebel Free Syrian Army to the Syrian government on May 31 threatens to unilateraly break the deal if the Syrian regime doesn’t honour the six-point plan within 48 hours. Thus it makes the adoption of concrete progress very urgent in order to prevent further escalation of violence. In this context, the release of political prisonners should also be considered a priority. Thus, FIDH encourages the UNSC to renew and extend the UNSMIS mandate so that it can effectively monitor the implementation of the plan and allow the observers to access detention centers and inquire about the fate of political prisoners who remain in detention.

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