Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Syrian siege may be crime against humanity, Amnesty says

Syrian security forces may have committed crimes against humanity during a deadly siege in May, Amnesty International said Wednesday, citing witness accounts of deaths in custody, torture and arbitrary detention.

The London-based rights group called on the United Nations Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

The security sweep in Talkalakh, which lasted less than a week, contributed to a growing sense of desperation over the government's brutal crackdown on protests as the nationwide uprising against President Bashar Assad's authoritarian regime gained traction.

At the time of the operation, The Associated Press interviewed residents who told of a catastrophic scene in the town of about 70,000, including sectarian killings, gunmen carrying out execution-style slayings and the stench of decomposing bodies in the streets.

Some activists have said the death toll from the May siege was as high as 36 people.

"The accounts we have heard from witnesses to events in [Talkalakh] paint a deeply disturbing picture of systematic, targeted abuses to crush dissent," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa deputy director.

The report issued Wednesday said the attacks "appear to be part of a widespread, as well as systematic, attack against the civilian population," which would constitute crimes against humanity.

Talkalakh is just across the border from Lebanon. (read more)