U.N. finds 'systematic' abuses in Syria

Sept. 20, 2011 at 2:44 PM
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GENEVA, Switzerland, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- The United Nations reported that innocent bystanders in Syria were shot by snipers and children were tortured by security forces.

Kang Kyung-wha, deputy high commissioner for human rights, told the U.N. Human Rights Council that its mission uncovered "widespread or systematic" human rights violations had occurred at the hands of Syrian security and military forces.

She said a fact-finding mission on Syria uncovered through "credible, corroborated and consistent accounts" that snipers were shooting bystanders helping the wounded and soldiers were torturing detainees, including children. If soldiers refused orders to shoot, they were executed by their officers.

"It is our assessment that the scale and nature of these acts may amount to crimes against humanity," Kang testified.

Damascus blames much of the violence on criminal elements in the country and foreign gangs. Syrian President Bashar Assad has announced a series of reforms that Damascus says addresses many of the protester demands, though the international community has questioned his sincerity given the ongoing violence.

Kang, in her testimony to the Human Rights Council, said violence continues despite two special sessions at the council and statements of concern from the U.N. Security Council. The Security Council, however, hasn't issued a formal resolution condemning the violence, largely because of Russia's reluctance.

She added the death toll since mid-March is approaching 3,000.

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