Organisations Politiques et Economiques Regionales

Annan urged to avoid Arab League pitfalls in Syria

Amnesty International urged peace envoy Kofi Annan on Friday to avoid the same pitfalls as the Arab League with its planned monitoring mission to oversee a halt to year-long bloodshed in Syria.

« 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 said.

It urged UN-Arab League envoy Annan and the two organisations « to ensure that any UN mission deployed to the country includes human rights monitors who would be able to pass vital information to investigators. »

« It is crucial that human rights monitors are included as part of this effort, to report and document crimes on the ground, » said Jose Luis Diaz, human rights watchdog’s representative at the United Nations in New York.

The London-based organisation was referring to Annan’s plan to set up a monitoring mission to Syria, after a similar Arab League operation was scrapped in January after barely a month.

The 165 monitors were deployed in December after Syria agreed to an Arab League plan for a halt to the violence, prisoners to be freed, tanks withdrawn from towns, and observers and foreign media to be allowed free movement.

None of the clauses in the protocol was respected and the Cairo-based League, which has suspended Syria’s membership, decided not to renew its mission because of an upsurge in violence.

« The Syrian government has continued to block the entry of human rights investigators into the country both from international organisations and from the (UN) Commission of Inquiry, » Amnesty said in a statement. « This (Annan’s) mission is a key opportunity to put that right. »

In Geneva on Friday, the UN Human Rights Council ordered an extension of a probe into violations in Syria, and asked investigators to map out abuses in the regime’s deadly crackdown on dissent.

Amnesty warned that much of Annan’s six-point peace plan was similar to proposals that the Syrian government had agreed with the Arab League in late 2011 but which its monitors later concluded Damascus had failed to implement.

« As part of the UN-endorsed proposal, the (Syrian) 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, » said Amnesty.

The watchdog said local activists had the names of more than 18,000 people who had been detained to date « and estimate that this is less than half the actual total. »

On a pessimistic note, Amnesty said: « 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 (Annan) plan will require a fundamental change of approach » on the part of Syrian authorities.

Annan, who on Wednesday was bolstered by a unanimous UN Security Council statement of support, two days earlier, sent a team of experts to Damascus to try to agree on setting up an international monitoring mission.

The team has returned to Geneva after « three days of intensive talks with Syrian authorities on urgent steps to implement » Annan’s proposals, the envoy’s spokesman said on Friday.

« Mr Annan and his team are currently studying the Syrian responses carefully » but no new visit is planned for him to hold talks with President Bashar al-Assad, following two meetings earlier this month.

A Britain-based monitoring group says more than 9,100 people have died in the unrest since peaceful protests started in March 2011 before turning into an armed revolt, faced with a brutal crackdown which has cost dozens of lives each day. –AFP


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