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Syria: UN Committee Against Torture concerned about gross and widespread rights violations

GENEVA (25 November 2011) – The United Nations Committee Against Torture said Friday it is deeply concerned about gross and pervasive human rights violations in Syria, that are allegedly taking place in a context of impunity, according to reliable sources from the UN human rights system.

“The Committee has reviewed numerous, consistent and substantiated reports and information about widespread rights violations in the country,” said Claudio Grossman, who currently heads the 10-member expert panel. “Among them are cases of torture and ill-treatment of detainees; rife or systematic attacks against civilian population, including the killing of peaceful demonstrators and the use of excessive of force against them; and the persecutions of human rights defenders and activists.”

“Of particular concern are reports referring to children who have suffered torture and mutilation while detained; as well as cases of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; arbitrary detention by police forces and the military; and enforced and involuntary disappearances,” Mr. Grossman stressed.

The Committee, which is concluding its 47th session in Geneva, is alarmed by the fact that these reports of massive human rights violations take place in a context of total and absolute impunity, as prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations have not been undertaken in such cases. “These generalised abuses are allegedly conducted under direct orders from public authorities, at their instigation or with their consent or acquiescence,” Mr. Grossman said.

The sources quoted by Committee include, among others, the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation of Human Rights in Syria; urgent appeals and allegation letters from various special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council, including the special rapporteur on torture; statements of the UN High Commissioner and Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights; statements delivered on behalf of all special procedures mandate-holders of the Council; and concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.*

The Committee requested the Government of Syria to provide it with a special report by 9 March 2012, that indicates the measures it is taking to ensure that all its obligations under the Convention are effectively implemented; the measures that have been taken to implement the recommendations of the Committee’s concluding observations adopted in May 2010; as well as information on the current events occurring in the territory of the State party referred to in the reports and statements mentioned above. The Committee will review the special during its next session in May 2012.

The Committee is the body of 10 independent human rights experts monitoring the implementation of the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which has been ratified by 149 states, including Syria, since its creation in 1988. The current Committee is integrated by experts from China, Chile, Cyprus, Ecuador, Italy, Morocco, Norway, Senegal, Spain, and the United States of America.

(*) UN Human Rights, country page – Syria (see all the reports/documents): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/SYIndex.aspx

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Committee Against Torture: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CAT/Pages/CATIndex.aspx

Check the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cat.htm

For media inquiries please contact: Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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