Crimes against humanity possible in Syria: UN
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Last Updated: Saturday, July 23, 2011, 21:36
United Nations: Two special advisers to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon say there is "a serious possibility" that crimes against humanity have been committed in Syria and are continuing to take place.

Francis Deng, the adviser on preventing genocide, and Edward Luck, the advisor of the right to protect civilians caught in armed conflict, expressed alarm in a joint statement today "at persistent reports of widespread and systematic human rights violations by Syrian security forces responding to anti-government protests across the country."

They said "the scale and gravity of the violations indicate a serious possibility" of crimes against humanity.

The advisers called for an independent investigation of events and urged the Syrian government to allow humanitarian and human rights experts into the country.

In Paris, the foreign ministry spokesman said yesterday of the Homs clampdown that the army should protect the people rather than "sow terror."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was "appalled" by the killings of civilians and the "brutal violence in Homs," saying the people have been calling for change and Assad "must listen to them."

More than 50 people have been killed in central Homs in the past week, activists have said, accusing the regime of sowing sectarian strife among the city's Christian, Sunni Muslim and Assad's Alawite minority community.

Activists had called for yesterday's demonstrations on Facebook group The Syrian Revolution 2011, a driving force behind the anti-regime protests, to show support for the flashpoint city.

The Internet group also called for a general strike today.

More than 1.2 million Syrians demonstrated in the eastern oil hub of Deir Ezzor and Hama in the north, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, said in Nicosia.

"More than 1.2 million people marched: in Deir Ezzor there were more than 550,000, and in Hama more than 650,000," he said. Syrian state television said only 2,000 rallied in Deir Ezzor.

In Homs, more than 25,000 people gathered in Al-Ulu park in the mostly Sunni Muslim Al-Khalidiyeh neighbourhood, the Observatory said.

Security forces used violence to disperse demonstrators with eight deaths reported in Homs, in Syria's second city Aleppo, in Idlib near the Turkish border and around Damascus, activists said.

Homs has spearheaded dissent against the Assad regime since pro-democracy protests erupted on March 15.

The army swept through Homs this week arresting "armed men" who the government blame for the violence in the country and confiscating "stockpiles of weapons," the pro-government daily Al-Watan has said.

Meanwhile state news agency SANA said a train driver was killed and several passengers hurt when their train derailed today morning after the track was sabotaged.

"At dawn, groups of saboteurs targeted a train running from Aleppo to Damascus. They dismantled the rails and the train ran off the tracks" near Homs, SANA said.


First Published: Saturday, July 23, 2011, 21:36

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