Thursday, March 1, 2012

Syria Condemned By UN For Human Rights Violations

The United Nations Human Rights Counsel voted Thursday to condemn the Syrian government for widespread violations of human rights. The measure passed at 37 nations in favor. Russia, China and Cuba voted against and India, Ecuador, and The Phillipines abstained. An additional four nations did not participate. Britain and Switzerland announced they were closing their embassies in Damascus, Syria's capital. Kuwait has pledged support for rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

The government began its bombardment of the neighborhood of Baba Amr in Homs four weeks ago on Thursday and activists say army defectors were still resisting the onslaught. Baba Amr was pounded on all four sides by mortar and rocket fire on Wednesday. Syria's main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, announced it had formed a "military bureau" to organize resistance to President Bashar al-Assad. Communications with Baba Amr were cut for several hours, raising the fear that a long-awaited ground attack had already begun. Tank reinforcements had closed in area the area overnight from Damascus highway.

Activists say it was a very aggressive attack but do not think they will invade the city with tanks. There is speculation that the army would rather destroy the city than to invade. Snipers dispatched anyone on the streets of Baba Amr.

"The humanitarian situation is really bad," says Mulham al-Jundi, a nearby activist. Many neighborhoods have lost electricity and they are using much needed fuel to refrigerate the bodies of the Western journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik. There is minimal health care, endangering the lives of scores of wounded. Supplies are running low in the city and the death toll reached 29 on Wednesday.

Damascus blocked the visit of The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Valerie Amos, despite the fact that Russia encouraged attempts to bolster medical and other aid. Amos stated that she was "deeply disappointed" and supported a call by the International Committee of the Red Cross to meet the medical and other humanitarian needs of civilians. The Foreign Minister was quoted as saying that Amos had suggested an "inappropriate date" but they were willing to consider a more suitable time. It is unclear if Syria will allow the visit of Kofi Anan who was appointed as the organization's special envoy. The Foreign Ministry has requested clarification on Anan's role.

As Anan himself said, "The message is clear: the killing and violence must stop."

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