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U.S. Condemns Killing Of Syrian Rights Activist

Image from amateur video made available by Shamsnn on August 30, 2011 shows protesters carrying a large Syrian flag with the words "Freedom, Syria" written on it in Arabic in Idlib. (The contents of this image cannot be independently verified.)

The United States condemns in the strongest terms the killing of Syrian human rights activist Ghiyath Mattar.

The United States condemns in the strongest terms the killing of Syrian human rights activist Ghiyath Mattar. At a press briefing, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland denounced the brutal death of the 26 year-old Mattar:

"This was a high profile human rights activist in Syria apparently arrested on September 6th and died in custody – again, further evidence of this regime's brutality, indiscriminate force and absolute disregard for human life and for the human rights of its citizens."

Ms. Nuland noted that Mr. Mattar, along with leading activist Yahya Sharbaji and a number of other activists arrested the same day, was committed to non-violent resistance. "His brave commitment to confronting the regime's despicable violence with peaceful protest," said Ms. Nuland in a statement, "serves as an example for the Syrian people and for all those who suffer under the yoke of oppression."

Ambassadors from France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, Japan, Canada, the EU, and the United States attended Ghiyath Mattar's funeral to signal their support for his efforts for peaceful demonstrations and to show their unwavering support for the rights of the Syrian people to free speech and peaceful assembly. Activists report Syrian security forces attacked and arrested several mourners after the ambassadors left the event. Appallingly, it has become a standard tactic of the Syrian security forces to target mourners attending the funerals of slain activists.

Mr. Mattar's killing comes as peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrations against the Syrian regime approach the six-month mark. On September 12th, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay declared that at least 2600 Syrians have been killed since protests began in March. The Syrian government has tried to blame the bloodshed on so-called terrorists, in a blatant and futile attempt to hide its own brutality and escape the opprobrium of the international community.

State Department spokesperson Nuland urged the Syrian government to release all political prisoners and put an end to the arrests, the violence and the torture it is visiting on the Syrian people. "We stand with the Syrian people in their resistance to tyranny," she said. "We again call on [Syrian President Bashar al] Assad to step aside and allow the Syrian people to embark upon the democratic transformation they demand."