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UN advisers denounce "apparently deliberate" attacks on Syrian civilians

Two high-ranking United Nations officials today said they were “alarmed at the apparently systematic and deliberate attacks” on civilians in Syria, and called for an investigation into possible violations of international human rights law.

Francis Deng, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, and Edward Luck, the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, said in a joint statement that they were “gravely concerned at the increasing loss of life in Syria as a result of the continued violent suppression of anti-Government protests.”

Media reports indicate that several hundred persons have been killed in Syria during recent anti-Government protests that are part of a broader uprising this year across North Africa and the Middle East.

“We are particularly alarmed at the apparently systematic and deliberate attacks by police, military, and other security forces against unarmed civilians taking part in the last two months of protests. These attacks have reportedly resulted in many hundreds of deaths.

“The deployment of armed forces and the use of live fire, tanks and artillery in response to peaceful protests, and the targeting of residential areas where protests have taken place, are unacceptable under any circumstances.”

The statement said the attacks “appear primarily to have targeted the civilian population.”

“This underscores the need for an independent, thorough, and objective investigation into all alleged violations of international human rights law,” Mr. Deng and Mr. Luck said.

They also called for an investigation into the reported killing of members of the Government security forces.

For her part, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, issued a statement condemning the torture and killing of children across the region.

“Children are being wounded and killed in military action and armed violence throughout the Middle East and North Africa,” Ms Coomaraswamy said.

Specifically citing “the widely reported torture and execution of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib as well as the killing of a 10-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl in and around [the Syrian city of] Homs,” Ms. Coomaraswamy stressed that “the killing and maiming of children is a crime and is contrary to successive Security Council resolutions.”

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