UN accuses Syria regime of crimes against humanity (TELEGRAPH UK) By Richard Spencer, in Tunis and Adrian Blomfield 02/24/12)
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United Nations investigators have accused the Syrian regime of crimes
against humanity, indicating President Bashar al-Assad himself should
A commission of inquiry answering to the UN Human Rights Council said
it had compiled a confidential list of those "up to the highest
levels" who had ordered the shooting dead of unarmed women and
children, shelling of residential areas and torturing of wounded
protesters in hospital.
It released its findings on Thursday as Western and Arab League
diplomats and Syrian opposition figures gathered in Tunis to hammer
out proposals to put pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to quit.
Kofi Annan, the former UN chief and Nobel Peace Prize winner, was
appointed joint envoy for the talks.
One option reportedly under consideration by the "Friends of Syria"
was presenting a 72-hour ultimatum to Mr Assad that diplomats said
would include as yet unspecified punitive measures, likely to include
According to a leaked draft declaration, the meeting will call on
Syria to implement an immediate ceasefire to allow aid groups to
deliver relief supplies to areas worst hit by the violence.
It also "recognised the Syrian National Council as a legitimate
representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change", a
phrase which appeared to fall short of full endorsement of the most
prominent group opposed to Mr Assad.
Tunisia´s presidential spokesman meanwhile said the host country
would propose a political solution to the crisis involving a
Adnan Mancer, a presidential spokesman, said Tunisia would propose to
the "Friends of Syria" conference for a Yemen-style transition, where
the president stepped down.
He said Tunisia was ready to take part in the peacekeeping force to
back "a political solution because we totally oppose a foreign
Urgent discussions on precisely what challenge to present to Damascus
continued throughout the day on the sidelines of the London
Conference on Somalia between William Hague, the Foreign Secretary,
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, and officials from about
a dozen of the more than 70 nations and international organizations
expected at the Tunis meeting.
Although more than 7,000 people are believed to have been killed
since the uprising against Mr Assad 11 months ago, Britain and the US
continue to insist that military intervention is not on the agenda,
despite the pleas of Syrian opposition exiles.
Mr Hague said he would be arguing for more specific measures to be
taken, without providing details, adding to speculation that the
provison of arms or logistical assistance to the rebels was beginning
to be discussed.
"I think part of that has to be tightening a diplomatic and economic
stranglehold on the Assad regime," Mr Hague told the BBC.
At least 52 people were killed yesterday in Syria, the youngest being
a four-year-old girl. Tanks were seen advancing into Baba Amr, the
district where Marie Colvin, the Sunday Times journalist, and Remi
Ochlik, a French photographer, were killed on Wednesday, signalling
the possible beginning of a ground offensive to reclaim the district
from the lightly-armed rebels holding it.
The international outrage caused by the mounting death toll has so
far failed to persuade Mr Assad to call a halt to the offensive which
appears aimed to crush the opposition into submission.
He cannot be referred to the International Criminal Court so long as
he has the backing of Russia and China, who can use their veto in the
UN Security Council.
But the UN inquiry´s findings, handed to the UN Human Rights
Commissioner, Navi Pillay, will put more pressure on those countries
to come up with their own solution to the crisis.
It said four intelligence and security agencies which report to Mr
Assad personally "were at the heart of almost all operations" in
putting down the uprising.
"A reliable body of evidence exists ... to believe that particular
individuals, including commanding officers and officials at the
highest levels of government, bear responsibility for crimes against
humanity and other gross human rights violations," it concluded.
Western ministers will be eager to hear the proposals of the Arab
League on how to increase pressure on Syria. The League has
threatened sanctions against the regime, and set out its own
proposals for a transition of power which Damascus has rejected.
As with Libya, the US, Britain and France, the three leading voices,
will be reluctant to go further on recognising the opposition or
supplying weapons without Arab League support.
The most likely scenario, should that come about, is for the Nato
powers to provide logistical and humanitarian assistance to the
rebels, while Arab League powers such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar
A US State Department official was asked on the question of arms
supplies: "Are you guys going to talk about it with the door closed
and just not tell anybody?"
He replied: "What has brought together so many countries and
organizations is sending a unified message to Bashar al-Assad that
he´s on the wrong path, is this desire for a political solution and
to respond to the immediate [needs] of the Syrian people." (©
Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2012. 02/24/12)
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