Thursday, February 23, 2012

Homs Remains Under Artillery Assault For 20th Day; Assad's Crackdown Continues

The City of Homs has now been under constant artillery barrages and attacks by Bashar al-Assad's security forces for 20 days and there's no sign of any letup. Assad's forces are intensifying their attacks, and the body count continues rising on a daily basis.

The UN no longer keeps track of the casualty figures because their officials can't guarantee their own safety, so casualty figures are derived from news reports (both the official government propaganda type and the opposition Twitter, blog, and satellite report chatter), human rights groups that operate in the country, and the only thing that is certain is that civilians continue being murdered by the regime.

The attacks on Homs are not precision attacks against military targets, but are instead attacks that hit civilians all too frequently. Civilians are the targets, which means that Assad's regime is engaging in crimes against humanity and war crimes in violation of Geneva Conventions and other international law. Even the United Nations Secretary General and other top human rights officials at the UN are cognizant of the criminal acts by the Assad regime.
The report, handed to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, was compiled by a panel of three investigators who said that they had not been allowed to enter Syria to conduct their inquiries at first hand but had relied on a total of 369 interviews with victims, witnesses, defectors and other people with “inside knowledge” of the situation. They had also examined photographs, video recordings and satellite imagery to corroborate some witness accounts.

The report was published as Syrian security forces continued their shelling of besieged areas of the central city of Homs for a 20th successive day on Thursday, despite a growing outcry and international calls for the creation of humanitarian corridors to reach the sick, the wounded and the frail.

The newest bombardment, reported by activists, came on the eve of a major international gathering Tunisia to seek a way out of the crisis. Some reports from Homs said government forces in tanks had pressed into contested areas where opponents of the government say hundreds of trapped civilians have died in one of the deadliest campaigns in nearly a year of violent repression by the government of President Assad. The United Nations report seemed likely to add weight to those conclusions, arguing that Syria was now “on the brink” of civil war and “the continuation of the crisis carries the risk of radicalizing the population, deepening inter-communal tensions and eroding the fabric of society.”

The document spoke of torture and killing of civilians.

“The commission received credible and consistent evidence identifying high- and mid-ranking members of the armed forces who ordered their subordinates to shoot at unarmed protesters, kill soldiers who refused to obey such orders, arrest persons without cause, mistreat detained persons and attack civilian neighborhoods with indiscriminate tanks and machine gun fire,” the investigators said.
Yet, the UN is powerless to do anything more than write a strongly worded letter because Russia and China continue to hold a veto threat against any action in the Security Council that might even provide the option to use military action to force Assad to stop his brutal crackdown. That's despite the fact that the recognition of war crimes and crimes against humanity demands that the UN act under the terms of international law, including the Genocide Convention and Geneva Conventions.

There are also accusations by French leader Nicholas Sarkozy that the Syrian military deliberately targeted journalists, including the attacks that killed American journalist Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik.

Wounded protesters brought to hospitals are reportedly being tortured, and children are among those killed.

While Russia and China are the most important backers to Assad's regime, they're not alone. Besides Iran, it appears that Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has decided to throw his support behind Assad and his brutal regime.

The UN has gone beyond what it has previously state in regards to crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria to say that the actions are being directed by the highest levels of Assad's government.
"The commission is satisfied that a reliable body of evidence exists that, consistent with other verified circumstances, provides reasonable grounds to believe that particular individuals, including commanding officers and officials at the highest levels of government, bear responsibility for crimes against humanity and other gross human rights violations," the report said.
In other words, these aren't the actions of rogue local security forces run amok but rather the coordinated actions of a government engaging in crimes against their own countrymen.

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