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Syrians risk bullets to demand their rights

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When army tanks recently rolled into the city of Dera’a in southern Syria and began shelling residential areas, the human rights crisis in the country reached a new low.

More than 511 people have died across Syria since protestors calling for political reform took to the streets in mid-March. Hundreds of people have been arbitrarily arrested and detained incommunicado, placing them at serious risk of torture and other ill-treatment.  Torture of detainees has long been common and endemic in Syria.

We have repeatedly urged the Syrian government to rein in the security forces, cease unlawful killings and other excessive force, and for independent investigations and accountability – with those responsible for human rights violations being brought to justice.

The Syrian authorities have failed to take these steps and intensified repression. Consequently, we have called on the UN Security Council to refer Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, to impose an arms embargo and to freeze the assets abroad of the Syrian President and his senior associates.

The peaceful protests began in February, inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt – where popular protests brought the downfall of longstanding presidents – and organised partly through social networking sites such as Facebook. But they really took off after 18 March when security forces fired on peaceful protestors in Dera’a using live ammunition, killing several people. The protestors were calling for the release of a local youth who had been arrested for scrawling ‘the people want the downfall of the regime’ on a wall in the city.

Since then protests have mushroomed and taken place in many different towns and cities, and they have been met with increasing repression – killings, arrests and torture. Even so, the protests have continued as Syrians risk the bullets to demand their rights.

UPDATE, 4 MAY: We have received first-hand accounts of torture from Syrian detainees, including one man who was stripped, beaten and made to lick his own blood off the floor. Read latest news

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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