HRW Seeks U.N. Probe into Syria Crackdown on Protesters

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Human Rights Watch on Friday called for the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate the deadly crackdown on protesters in Syria and to "strongly condemn repression of peaceful protests."

"Syria’s President Bashar Assad needs to hear an unequivocal message from the Human Rights Council that violent suppression of peaceful protests is unacceptable and will have consequences," said Julie de Rivero, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch.

The 47-member United Nations rights body, which Syria in March applied to join, is to discuss the violence in Syria at a special session in Geneva at the behest of 16 members, including the United States.

"An international investigation into the Syria crackdown should help deter further violence," the HRW statement said.

The rights watchdog has reported that at least 300 people have been killed by Syrian security forces using live ammunition against unarmed, largely peaceful protests that began on March 15, although other rights groups give higher tolls.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions has stressed that "live ammunition is being used in clear violation of international law."

Authorities have also prevented medical personnel in at least two towns from treating wounded protesters, and injured people have been denied access to hospitals, HRW said.

The group noted that "security services have also arbitrarily arrested and tortured activists, writers, and journalists who have reported on or expressed support for the anti-government protests."

"While suppressing protests at home, Syria is actively campaigning for a seat on the Human Rights Council," de Rivero said. Elections to the body are scheduled in the U.N. General Assembly on May 20.

"Governments should tell Syria in no uncertain terms that its rampant abuses disqualify it from membership on the Human Rights Council," de Rivero added.

A draft resolution tabled by the United States calls on the U.N. Human Rights Council to agree to "urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry... to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law" in Syria.

The proposal also "strongly condemns the killing, arrest and torture of hundreds of peaceful protesters by the Syrian government" and "stresses the need to investigate... and prosecute those responsible for attacks."

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