U.N. Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay: Syria Death Toll Surpasses 5,000
The United Nations human rights chief says that more than 5,000 people have been killed in Syria since an uprising against the longtime rule of the Assad dynasty began nine months ago.
According to Reuters, the death toll, which does not include soldiers or security forces loyal to the Assad regime, is 1,000 higher than the previous toll announced just ten days ago by U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay. The dead include civilians, army defectors and government troops executed for refusing to shoot civilians, Pillay said.
The Syrian government claims more than 1,100 state security forces have been killed by insurgents.
Pillay says that the Assad regime’s slaughter could constitute crimes against humanity and has reiterated her call for the U.N. Security Council to refer the regime to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Bashar al-Assad, who has ruled Syria since his father Hafez died in 2000, has responded to a popular uprising that began in Deraa in mid-march with brutal, deadly force. The revolt against the regime was inspired by similar successful revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere throughout the Middle East, the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ that has empowered ordinary citizens but terrified the tyrants that have ruled them with iron fists for so long.
The latest violence occurred early this morning in Idlib in the north, where state security forces killed 11 people and wounded 26 more. Army defectors launched a retaliatory attack for the Idlib deaths, killing seven government troops.
The killing has not dampened resistance to Assad’s rule. Yesterday marked the second day of what the opposition is calling a ‘Strike for Dignity,’ but the capital city of Damascus and the commercial city of Aleppo remained relatively quiet.
In addition to the 5,000 Syrians killed during the revolt, Pillay says an additional 14,000 are believed to be in detention. Another 12,400 have fled to neighboring countries; tens of thousands more have been internally displaced.
But not all U.N. member nations are rushing to condemn the Assad regime. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, while admitting he was troubled by Pillay’s report, accused the West of being in “regime-change mode.”
“The tragedy is that if things were allowed to degenerate and to go in the direction of further provocation, of fanning further confrontation, then maybe (there would be) hundreds of thousands dead,” Churkin said.
China has also joined Russia in stymying Western attempts to pass a Security Council resolution condemning the Syrian government. Brazil also opposes such a measure.
Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari called Western opposition to Syrian atrocities “a huge conspiracy concocted against Syria from the beginning.”
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