Pressure is increasing on Syria’s Bashar al Assad.
A United Nations commission of inquiry has submitted a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council saying that Syrian troops and security forces are guilty of crimes against humanity during the Assad regime’s eight-month assault against anti-government protesters.
The three-person UN commission interviewed 223 victims and witnesses. It reported that the human rights violations visited on the Syrian people by government forces include the indiscriminate firing on unarmed civilians; the targeting of children – at least 256 children have been killed as of early November; arbitrary arrest and abductions; and the torture and rape of detainees.
The report was released just days after the Arab League voted overwhelmingly to impose sanctions on Syria – the first time in the Arab League’s history to approve sanctions on any one of its 22 members. The sanctions include a freeze on Syrian government financial assets in Arab states, an end to transactions with Syria’s central bank, and a travel ban on Assad and his aides. In a press conference after the vote, Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim said, “The Syrian people are being killed, but we don’t want this. Every Syrian official should not accept killing even one person.”
State Department Deputy spokeperson Mark Toner commended the move by the Arab League: “It’s a very clear message the Arab League has sent to Assad: that his neighbors are no longer going to tolerate his bloodshed – or the bloodshed perpetrated rather by his regime.”
The U.S. and the EU have also sanctioned Syria, and the United States hopes more nations will do so as well. Pressuring the government is a building process and takes time, said Mr. Toner. The U.S. believes that eventually the intensifying pressure will lead Assad to step down and allow a peaceful, democratic transition. The move by the Arab League, he added, strongly indicates that change is on the horizon: “When Assad’s own neighborhood has said “Enough!”, it is a sign that the tide has indeed turned.”