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Syria: Kofi Annan mission should report on human rights

Amnesty has names of over 7,200 people now reported killed

Any UN mission to supervise an end to armed violence in Syria must include as part of its work the monitoring and reporting of human rights violations and abuses, including crimes against humanity, Amnesty International said today.
The call comes after a UN Security Council presidential statement this week endorsed a “six-point plan” proposed by Kofi Annan, the Joint Special Envoy for the United Nations and the Arab League on Syria.
Amnesty is calling on Annan, the UN Security Council and the Arab League to ensure that any UN mission deployed to the country includes human rights monitors who would be able to pass vital information to investigators, including at the independent international Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

Meanwhile, it is expected that the UN Human Rights Council will today extend the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry - which has corroborated Amnesty’s own findings that crimes against humanity are taking place in Syria - until September. Amnesty insists that documentation of crimes under international law by monitors is essential to ensure future accountability for those responsible.

Future investigations could be carried out by the International Criminal Court - which Amnesty has called on the Security Council to make possible - or by national investigations carried out on the basis of universal jurisdiction, leading to fair trials without the death penalty. The organisation also said there would need to be effective steps taken to protect victims, witnesses and anyone cooperating with monitors.

Amnesty International United Nations in New York representative Jose Luis Diaz said:

“It is crucial that human rights monitors are included as part of this effort, to report and document crimes on the ground.
“The Syrian government has continued to block the entry of human rights investigators into the country - both from international organisations and from the Commission of Inquiry. This mission is a key opportunity to put that right.

“If these six points were to be carried out in good faith by the Syrian government, that would go a significant way to improving the human rights of Syrians.
“But the Syrian government’s main objective throughout the year-long uprising has appeared to be crushing opposition at almost any cost in human life and dignity. This plan will require a fundamental change of approach.”

Amnesty is meanwhile warning that many of the commitments in the “six-point plan” are similar to those that the Syrian government had agreed with the Arab League in late 2011. Arab League monitors later concluded that the authorities had failed to implement genuinely its commitments. As part of the UN-endorsed proposal, the authorities are called on to “intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons”, although it is not clear who will monitor such releases.
Previously, the Arab League observers were tasked with “verifying the release of persons detained due to current events”. The head of the mission said they had confirmed the releases of two-thirds of the 7,604 detainees whom the Syrian authorities said they had freed. However, credible reports indicate that other detainees have been hidden from the observers and that many thousands of others remain detained. Local human rights activists have the names of more than 18,000 people said to be currently held and estimate that this is less than half the actual total.
Under the six-point plan the Syrian government is also expected to “immediately cease troop movements towards, and end the use of heavy weapons in, population centres, and begin pull-back of military concentrations in and around population centres.” The Arab League monitors also attempted to verify the withdrawal of “all armed elements” from cities and residential areas, but there were credible reports of armoured fighting vehicles being kept in residential areas, including by being hidden in alleyways or painted white to appear non-military.
Amnesty has now received the names of more than 7,200 people reported to have been killed in the context of the protests and unrest over the past year.

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