Amnesty International has submitted the following statement to the sixteenth special session of the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic.
For six weeks the Syrian government has been violently repressing pro-democracy protests that have been taking place throughout the country. This follows a long history of repression which has seen the arbitrary arrest, detention and imprisonment of peaceful government critics and advocates of reform, including for Kurdish minority rights, torture and other ill-treatment of detainees and prisoners on a widespread and systematic scale, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances. All these human rights violations are being committed with impunity.
Amnesty International has received to date the names of more than 450 people reported to have been killed by Syrian government forces since the protests began in midMarch. Hundreds have been injured and hundreds more detained; many are held in incommunicado detention at undisclosed locations and are at high risk of torture and other ill-treatment. Amnesty International has received harrowing first-hand testimony of torture and other ill-treatment that has been meted out on individuals, including children, detained during these weeks – including severe beatings with sticks, rifle-butts and cables, electrocution and sexual assault.
Many of those killed and injured are reported by eye-witnesses and others to have been shot by security forces, including the army and paramilitaries, using live ammunition firing into crowds of protesters and mourners attending funerals of people previously killed by government forces. Snipers have also shot and killed people in the streets and in their homes and have targeted medical workers and other people trying to help the wounded.
The most intense repression to date occurred on 22-24 April. More than 120 people were killed during “Great Friday” protests called for 22 April; some as a result of army shelling of residential areas in the southern city of Dera’a using tanks. This use of artillery against civilian residential areas indicates that the Syrian government may be determined to quell the popular protests using any means irrespective of their legality and compliance with international human rights law.