Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Injured Journalists Smuggled Out of Syria As Violence Continues

The Red Cross continues their efforts to try and bring humanitarian aid to civilians caught in the crossfire and under siege by Syrian loyalists to Bashar al-Assad in places like Homs. They, along with Syrian rebel forces, were finally successful in smuggling out one of the journalists injured in the same attack that killed American journalist Marie Colvin and a French photographer.
Syrian rebels smuggled a wounded British journalist out of the besieged central city of Homs Tuesday and whisked him to safety in neighboring Lebanon, activist groups said. They did not manage to evacuate a wounded French journalist or the bodies of two other Western reporters killed last week.

The Syrian opposition group Local Coordination Committees and global activist group Avaaz said Paul Conroy was the only foreign journalist to escape Syria. Rima Fleihan, an LCC spokeswoman, said the Sunday Times photographer was smuggled out by Syrian army defectors.
There are unconfirmed reports that a wounded French journalist was also evacuated, but there's no confirmation despite claims from French President Sarkozy that it has happened.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave one of the stronger statements that Assad is a war criminal. It's an argument I've been making for some time now - based on the following evidence:

  1. purposefully targeting civilian areas without regard for civilian casualties;
  2. collective punishment by withholding humanitarian aid and all manner of supplies to embattled cities such as Homs and Hama;
  3. specifically targeting opponents of the regime for elimination;
  4. mass killings, including reports surfacing yesterday concerning the murder of dozens of civilians attempting to flee Hama but who were killed en masse near a checkpoint; and
  5. unlawful detention of protesters and opposition groups.
Assad's forces are not restricting the use of deadly force solely against terrorists or collaborators as they have repeatedly stated on their state-controlled media outlets. They are engaging in the wanton attacks on cities like Hama and Homs to crush the opposition pursuant to Assad's version of his father's Hama rules. Crush the opposition to remain in power is what Assad is seeking to accomplish. 

To that end, Assad's more than willing to violate all manner of human rights to stay in power. 

Syrian forces are pushing deeper into Homs in an attempt to crush the opposition - and the carnage is expected to increase significantly in coming days. Despite Assad claiming that the new constitution approved in a referendum will increase political participation, Assad shows no signs of ever relinquishing power. Russia and China continue backing Assad, with Russia claiming that the referendum is a sign of reform and change.

Considering that Assad's forces intensified their crackdowns in areas that oppose the regime, it's not surprising that such a large percentage of those voting supported the referendum. Those opposed to the regime boycotted the vote, even if they were capable of going to a voting location without fear of being killed in crossfire. It's a self-serving referendum that does nothing to expand political access or bring about the end to the bloody crackdown.  

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