|UN: Syrian forces killed and tortured 256 children|
|Written by AP, BEIRUT|
|Tuesday, 29 November 2011|
A UN investigation has concluded that Syrian forces committed crimes against humanity by killing and torturing hundreds of children, including a 2-year-old girl reportedly shot to death so she wouldn’t grow up to be a demonstrator.
The results of the inquiry, released on Monday, added to mounting international pressure on President Bashar al-Assad, a day after the Arab League approved sweeping sanctions to push his embattled regime to end the violence.
Syria’s foreign minister called the Arab move “a declaration of economic war” and warned of retaliation.
The report by a UN Human Rights Council panel found that at least 256 children were killed by government forces between mid-March and early November, some of them tortured to death.
“Torture was applied equally to adults and children,” said the assessment, released in Geneva.
“Numerous testimonies indicated that boys were subjected to sexual torture in places of detention in front of adult men.”
The UN defines a child as anyone under the age of 18. The report was compiled by a panel of independent experts who were not allowed into Syria. However, the commission interviewed 223 victims and witnesses, including defectors from Syria’s military and security forces. The panel said government forces were given “shoot to kill” orders to crush demonstrations. Some troops “shot indiscriminately at unarmed protesters,” while snipers targeted others in the upper body or head, it said.
It quoted one former soldier who said he decided to defect after witnessing an officer shoot a 2-year-old girl in Latakia, then claim he killed her so she wouldn’t grow up to be a demonstrator.
The list of alleged crimes committed by Syrian forces “include murder, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence,” said the panel’s chairman, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, a Brazilian professor. “We have a very solid body of evidence.”
At least 3,500 people have been killed since March in Syria, according to the UN -- the bloodiest regime response against the Arab Spring protests sweeping the Middle East. Deaths in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen have numbered in the hundreds; while Libya’s toll is unknown and likely higher, the conflict there differs from Syria’s because it descended into outright civil war between two armed sides.
The UN investigation is the latest in a growing wave of international measures pressuring Damascus to end its crackdown, and comes on the heels of sweeping sanctions approved Sunday by the Arab League.
Syrian officials did not comment directly on the UN findings. However, the regime reacted sharply to the Arab sanctions, betraying a deep concern over the economic impact and warning that Syria could strike back.
Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem called the Arab League action “a declaration of economic war” and said Syria had withdrawn 95 percent of its assets in Arab countries.
Economy Minister Mohammed Nidal al-Shaar said “sources of foreign currency would be affected” by the sanctions, reflecting concerns that Arab investment in Syria will fall off and transfers from Syrians living in other Arab countries will drop.
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 29 November 2011 )|
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