Syria toll past 2,000, Security Council told

UNITED NATIONS - More than 2,000 civilians have been killed in Syria’s crackdown on protests, a UN Security Council meeting was told Thursday as Western leaders called for tougher action on the Assad regime.

By (AFP)

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Published: Fri 19 Aug 2011, 9:26 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:52 AM

Top UN officials described accounts of blindfolded protesters being shot dead in a football stadium and how children as young as 13 were among the many missing feared killed in government custody, according to sources who attended the Security Council meeting.

They also told the 15-nation council, divided over how to halt the Syrian repression, that government forces were targeting hospitals and hiding the dead in mass graves.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the violence since protests erupted in March should be the subject of an international investigation about possible crimes against humanity.

B. Lynn Pascoe, the UN under-secretary-general for political affairs, said another 120 people have been killed since the last Security Council discussions on Syria on August 10, taking the toll past 2,000 civilians dead, the sources at the closed meeting told AFP.

Pillay said the excessive force indicated there was a “shoot-to-kill” policy and told the council about an alleged incident in a stadium in the protest city of Daraa where 26 blindfolded men were shot dead execution-style on May 1.

A boy of 13 was among the many missing feared killed in government jails, she added.

Hospitals have now become a target of the military assault and some doctors were refusing to treat the injured because they feared persecution, Pillay was quoted as saying.

Syrian government officials have told the UN that 350 security forces had been killed by armed gangs and extremists they say are behind the protests. But UN officials said the claims could not be checked as no independent fact-finding mission has been allowed into Syria.

Assad told UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday that the military offensive had “stopped,” according to Ban’s spokesman. Reports from the Syrian city of Homs said, however, that security forces opened fire to disperse an anti-regime protest killing at least one person and wounding another, according to an activist.

Pascoe said reforms promised by Assad could not be carried out while the military assault continued, the sources added.

US and top European leaders called on Assad to step down in a coordinated move just before the meeting.

They are also building up a campaign to press the UN Security Council to take a tougher line on Assad.

Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa have resisted attempts to pass a formal resolution on Syria and vehemently oppose sanctions.

But a Western diplomat said the reports presented at the council meeting were “astonishing.”

“It is as though this regime has launched into a violent contest of systematic repression. There has been no positive sign coming out of Syria,” the diplomat added.

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