Allow humanitarian access to Deraa - ICRC

News and Press Release
Originally published

DUBAI, 5 May 2011 (IRIN) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has called for better humanitarian access to the southern Syrian city of Deraa, which has been hit by political violence, and where food, water and medical supplies have also run short.

"The violence has resulted in a large number of casualties and we fear that if the situation worsens, more lives will be lost," said Marianne Gasser, head of the ICRC delegation in Damascus. "It is urgent that emergency medical services, first aid workers and others performing life saving tasks swiftly reach those in need."

The city, described by various sources as the epicentre of pro-reform protests, has had its electricity and communications cut since 26 April.

The warning came days after the Human Rights Council, an inter-governmental body in the UN system, adopted a resolution calling on the Syrian government to end human rights violations, protect its population, fully respect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, allow access to the internet and telecommunications networks, and lift censorship on reporting.

According to the International Crisis Group (ICG), a conflict resolution body, Syria is "quickly going beyond the point of no return".

"By denouncing all forms of protest as sedition, and dealing with them through escalating violence, the regime is closing the door on any possible honourable exit to a deepening national crisis," the ICG warned.

"With little the international community can do, the optimal outcome is one whose chances are dwindling by the day: an immediate end to the violence and a genuine national dialogue to pave the way for a transition to a representative, democratic political order."

Reports say protestors against the government of President Bashar al-Assad have faced violent repression by security forces. On 1 May, 499 were arrested in Deraa, according to Amnesty International, which also said it had received first-hand reports of torture and other ill-treatment from detainees.

"These disturbing new accounts of detainees being tortured further underscore the need for President Bashar al-Assad to put an end to his security forces' violent onslaught against his own people," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"The use of unwarranted lethal force, arbitrary detention and torture appear to be the desperate actions of a government that is intolerant of dissent and must be halted immediately. Syrians must be allowed to voice their calls for change peacefully."