Top UN rights envoy to probe Syria killings
A wounded Syrian man is lifted off the back of a pick-up truck following shelling by Syrian government forces on al-Qusayr, close to the restive city of Homs. AFP photo
A top U.N. human rights investigator held talks in Damascus with senior Syrian officials to pave the way for a probe into massacres and other atrocities in the country, U.N. and diplomatic sources said yesterday.
It is the first time Brazilian expert Paulo Pinheiro has been granted permission to enter Syria since his team was set up in September by the U.N. Human Rights Council. “He is trying to pave the way for us to be able to go into the country,” a U.N. source told Reuters in Geneva. “We need to go before September when our final report is to be submitted.”
In reports based on hundreds of interviews with witnesses, survivors and refugees in the region, the team has accused Syrian forces of committing crimes against humanity, including executions and torture. It has also blamed rebels for carrying out atrocities. Pinheiro has met deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad and is due to return to Geneva today, a day before presenting the team’s latest report to the 47-member rights forum, they said.On the ground, violence killed at least 13 people across as the army pounded towns and cities in an attempt to regain control of territory lost to rebels, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
‘100 tanks to Homs’
At least 11 of the dead were civilians with the highest number of killed in the northwestern province of Idlib, where fierce clashes were underway between rebels and troops, the Britain-based Observatory said. Two civilians and a rebel fighter were killed in the fighting that raged in the Idlib town of Kafr al-Nabel. Three other civilians and a rebel died in Maaret al-Numan as troops pounded the town with mortar shells and rained gunfire on it in a bid to overrun the armed insurgents, the Observatory said.
The rebel Free Syrian Army said “the regime is sending reinforcements estimated at 100 tanks in the direction of Homs... which clearly demonstrates its intention to commit the greatest massacre in history.” An appeal from Homs residents distributed by the opposition Syrian National Council said the city was experiencing shortages of food, water and medicine.