Friday, November 11, 2011

Dozens more killed in Syria, HRW documents crimes against humanity

Tank in the streets of Homs.

At least 30 civilians and 26 soldiers were killed in Syria on Thursday, activists said, as a seven-month crackdown on pro-democracy protests becomes more violent and attacks on security forces increase.
Among the 56 killed on Thursday were 16 protesters shot dead by soldiers in Homs, 140 km (90 miles) north of Damascus, where troops have tried to crush protests as well as an armed insurgency, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Fourteen others were killed in house-to-house raids and in protests in Damascus suburbs, the southern province of Deraa and the northwestern province of Idlib.
Twenty six soldiers were killed in ambushes, activists said, 25 near Maarat al-Numaan, a town 70 km south of Aleppo, and in the nearby city of Khan Sheikhoun, said the British-based Observatory, headed by dissident Rami Abdelrahman. Another soldier was killed in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor. Both towns are in Idlib, where an increasing number of army deserters and insurgents are taking refuge, helped by the region's rugged terrain and proximity to Turkey, activists say.
The daily death-toll this month has been one of the highest in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule.The United Nations says 3,500 people have been killed in Assad's crackdown. Authorities say more than 1,100 soldiers and police have been killed in the unrest, which they blame on "terrorists" and Islamist militants.

Human Rights Watch Today issued a report in which it says that the systematic nature of abuses against civilians in Homs by Syrian government forces, including torture and unlawful killings, indicate that crimes against humanity have been committed. HRW urged the Arab League, whih is going to meet in Cairo tomorrow,  to suspend Syria’s membership in the League. Also it asked the United Nations Security Council to impose an arms embargo and sanctions against individuals responsible for the violations, and refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.
The report focuses on violations by Syrian security forces from mid-April to the end of August, during which time security forces killed at least 587 civilians, the highest number of casualties for any single governorate.Human Rights Watch documented dozens of incidents in which security forces and government-supported militias violently attacked and dispersed overwhelmingly peaceful protests.Security forces have also conducted large-scale military operations in several towns in the governorate, including Tal Kalakh and Talbiseh as well as the city of Homs, resulting in many deaths and injuries. Typically, security forces used heavy machine guns, including anti-aircraft guns mounted on armored vehicles, to fire into neighborhoods to frighten people before entering with armored personnel carriers and other military vehicles.
As in much of the rest of Syria, security forces in Homs governorate subjected thousands of people to arbitrary arrests.Torture of detainees is rampant. Twenty-five former detainees from Homs were among those interviewed by Human Rights Watch. They all reported being subjected to various forms of torture. Human Rights Watch has independently documented 17 deaths in custody in Homs, at least 12 of which were clearly from torture. Data collected by local activists suggest even higher figures. They say that at least 40 people detained in Homs governorate died in custody between April and August.
 The 63-page report, “‘We Live as in War’: Crackdown on Protesters in the Governorate of Homs,” is based on more than 110 interviews with victims and witnesses from Homs, both the city and the surrounding governorate of the same name. The area has emerged as a center of opposition to the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

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