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Condemning violence against protesters in Syria, Ban calls for probe into killings

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today condemned the violence against peaceful protesters in the southern Syrian city of Deraa that left several dead and many more wounded today and yesterday, stressing that those responsible must be held accountable.

Media reports say at least six people have died after security forces fired on protesters outside the Omari mosque in Deraa. The mosque has reportedly been the focus of anti-Government demonstrations in recent days.

“There should be a transparent investigation into the killings, and those responsible must be held accountable,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.

The Secretary-General reiterated his call on the Syrian authorities to refrain from violence and to abide by their international commitments regarding human rights, including the right to peaceful assembly.

“He reminds the Syrian Government of its obligation to protect civilians and of its responsibility to address the legitimate aspirations of its people through a purposeful dialogue and reforms,” the statement added.

Yesterday the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called for an “independent, transparent and effective” investigation into the killing of six people by security forces in Deraa since last Friday, when thousands took to the streets following Friday prayers, calling for greater political freedom and an end to corruption.

OHCHR reiterated the need to put an immediate halt to the excessive use of force against peaceful protesters by security forces, especially the use of live ammunition.

Syria is among a handful of nations in North Africa and the Middle East witnessing popular uprisings demanding greater freedoms and democratic reforms. The wave of protests that began in Tunisia has already toppled the long-serving leader of that country, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, as well as Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. In Libya, the regime of Muammar al-Qadhafi has waged a fierce military offensive against the opposition movement.

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