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ICC should investigate suspected Syrian rights abuses, says UN rights chief

Navi Pillay says that the human rights commission’s recent report on Syria concluded that state forces had committed systematic and gross violations of human rights.

Assad supporters gathered in Damascus on Friday.
Assad supporters gathered in Damascus on Friday.
Image: Bassem Tellawi/AP/Press Association Images

THE UNITED NATIONS High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for the Syrian government to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged human rights abuses committed during its violent crackdown on political unrest.

Since pro-reform protests began in mid-March, the UN estimates that 5,000 people have been killed in the government’s crackdown.

Speaking at the start of this month, Pillay called on the international community to lend their support to Syrian civilians “in light of the manifest failure of the Syrian authorities” to protect them.

Yesterday, Pillay told the UN Security Council that hundreds of children have been killed in the violent crackdown and thousands are being detained. She also reiterated her calls for the council to refer Syria to the ICC to investigate possible crimes against humanity.

Businesses were closed and children were kept home from school yesterday in a general strike aimed at increasing pressure on President Bashar Assad to step down.

However, despite mounting international pressure and increasing economic sanctions against Syria, Assad shows no signs of planning to leave office.

Turnout to this week’s municipal elections has reportedly been low as people fear violence if they go to vote, however one activist in the restive city of Homs told the AP that the elections weren’t taken very seriously in Syria “even in normal days”.

The opposition has denounced the elections, coming as they do in the midst of the violence crackdown, and called for a boycott.

Over a dozen people were reported killed in clashes in the north-west of the country on Sunday. It is difficult to verify reports of clashes and of the extent of the general strike as most foreign media is banned from Syria and the movement of local journalists is restricted.

In a recent ABC interview, Assad denied state security forces were given any specific order to kill or use violence against protesters. He also called on the UN’s human rights committee to send him the documentation it used to compile a recent report accusing government forces of committing hundreds of crimes against humanity including killing and torturing children.

- Additional reporting by the AP

Explosion strikes major Syrian oil line: report >

“We don’t kill our people”: Syria’s Assad denies govt gave order for violent crackdown >

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