UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Friday urged [statement] the international community to take steps to protect civilian lives in Syria, where more than 3,000 civilians have been killed since protests against the government began in March. Pillay stated that the Syrian government has failed to protect its population and has ignored calls from the international community to cooperate with international investigations into possible human rights violations. According to a report adopted Tuesday by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) [official website], Syria has rejected calls from several nations [JURIST report] to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. Pillay cited repeated reports of snipers firing from rooftops and the use of live ammunition in the shelling of residential neighborhoods as examples of the excessive force being used against peaceful protesters. According to Pillay:
The result has been a devastatingly remorseless toll of human lives. The number of people killed since the violence started in March has now exceeded 3,000, including at least 187 children. More than 100 people have been reported killed in the last 10 days alone. In addition, thousands have been arrested, detained, forcibly disappeared and tortured. Family members inside and outside the country have been targeted for harassment, intimidation, threats and beatings. As more members of the military refuse to attack civilians and change sides, the crisis is already showing worrying signs of descending into an armed struggle.Pillay also indicated that protesters' family members, both inside and outside Syria, are being threatened, harassed and intimidated. She expressed concern that the struggle against the protesters could dissolve into an armed struggle. Pillay called on the international community to speak with one voice in order to protect the Syrian people and prevent the country from falling into civil-war.
Last month, the UNHRC voted 33-4 to adopt a resolution [JURIST report] ordering an investigation [press release] into crimes against humanity in Syria and urging the Syrian government once again to halt its violent crackdown against peaceful protesters. An emergency meeting was held in response to a plea [JURIST report] from Pillay to refer Syria to the ICC for an investigation into the violent suppression of anti-government protests. Many steps have been taken to try and halt the violence in Syria. In August, the Los Angeles Times reported that an unknown Western country is funding an investigation [JURIST report] into Syria's recent human rights abuses. In July, two UN rights officials expressed concern over reports of violence [JURIST report] used by Syrian authorities against the country's own people. In June, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published a preliminary report [JURIST report] describing human rights violations in Syria and calling for an investigation into government-authorized abuses related to pro-democracy protests that began earlier this year. In April, Pillay urged Syria to immediately halt the killings [JURIST report] and violence against civilian protesters in response to the fatal shootings of peaceful anti-government protesters.