Shabnum Mustapha: World needs to put more pressure on Syria

Young men burn posters of Bashr al-Assad. Picture: Getty
Young men burn posters of Bashr al-Assad. Picture: Getty
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TODAY marks 500 days since the start of the uprising in Syria. In that time, Amnesty International has been given the names of more than 12,000 men, women and children confirmed dead. That means 24 lives have been lost every day since the uprising began.

It started off as a demand by ordinary Syrians for freedoms and rights but has instead resulted in bloodshed.

Amnesty has documented sustained human rights violations by Syria’s security forces, amounting to crimes against humanity dating back to March 2011. We have also documented war crimes by the military since the uprising developed into a non-international armed conflict.

For months, Syrian government forces have killed many civilians by repeatedly using artillery and mortars to bombard densely populated civilian neighbourhoods around the country from Homs to Aleppo. Firing such imprecise weapons into civilian areas amounts to carrying out indiscriminate attacks and violates international humanitarian laws.

Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes in fear, either being internally displaced or seeking refuge in other countries.

Although the vast majority of the human rights abuses have been committed by the state’s security forces, abuses have also been committed by armed opposition groups.

We were disappointed that the extended UN supervision mandate in Syria did not include a stronger human rights component which would have improved monitoring and reporting of human rights violations on all sides. Amnesty has repeatedly called on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, to freeze the assets of the Syrian president and his associates and to impose an immediate arms embargo to stop the transfer of arms to the government.

We have also been consistently calling for the international community to unite to end the violence. With Russia and China vetoing a UN Security Council resolution last week (the third one they have vetoed since the violence began), the international community has collectively failed the people of Syria. By the end of today, another 24 lives will be lost.

• Shabnum Mustapha is director of Amnesty International, Scotland.