GENEVA (5 August 2011) – A group of UN human rights experts* today warned that the scale and gravity of the violent crackdown in the Syrian Arab Republic continues unabated, and reiterated their call for an immediate end to the violent strategies adopted by the Government to quash the on-going demonstrations.

“We continue to receive reports on systematic use of excessive force resulting in killings and injuries; allegations of torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detention of protestors; targeting of human rights defenders; and unjustified limitations on freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression,” the independent experts said.

Arbitrary executions:
“The indiscriminate use of heavy artillery against demonstrators cannot be justified; no State is allowed to use its military force against an unarmed civilian population regardless of the situation prevailing on the ground,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns. “The killings that result are clearly arbitrary executions and punishable under international law.”

“Syria has disregarded, and continues to, every international norm against torture and ill-treatment,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez. “Its leaders must cease such acts immediately and take note that they will be held accountable for their action.”


GENEVA, 27 July 2011 – “It is not easy being a human rights defender; in too many countries it is dangerous, plain dangerous,” said United Nations Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya launching her essential guide to the right to defend human rights*, a key document aimed at supporting those who stand for our rights by increasing understanding of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders and awareness on the dangers they face.

“Despite the efforts to implement the Declaration, human rights defenders continue to face numerous violations,” Ms. Sekaggya said. “I hope that this essential guide, the new ‘Commentary to the Declaration on human rights defenders’, will contribute to the development of a safer and more conducive environment for defenders to be able to carry out their work.”

The ‘Commentary to the Declaration on human rights defenders’ is a 100-page downloadable document which maps out the rights provided for in the Declaration, based mostly on information received and reports produced by the two Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders, Hina Jilani (2000-2008) and Margaret Sekaggya (since 2008), during the past eleven years. (more…)

GENEVA (15 April 2011) –UN human rights experts* on Friday denounced the rising death toll and brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters, journalists and human rights defenders in Syria despite the Government’s promises of reforms and consultations to end the 48-year-old emergency rule.

The experts noted that there were many underlying grievances that led to recent protests, including deep-seated corruption, injustice and discrimination, the lack of consultation, participation, and accountability. Political reforms, accompanied by economic and social reforms are urgent and critical. They urged the authorities to immediately stop the repression and engage in a meaningful, inclusive and transparent dialogue to implement reforms.

“Firing on peaceful crowds attending protests or funerals is by no means justified,” stressed Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on arbitrary executions. “Live ammunition is being used outside the prescribed limits and in clear violation of international law. Firearms may only be used in self-defence or in the defence of others.” Citing reports that people are now taking up arms to retaliate against law enforcement officials, Heyns warned that “this can easily escalate into widespread violence.” (more…)

GENEVA (1 April 2011) – A group of UN human rights experts warned Friday about the serious human rights violations in Côte d’Ivoire, including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, killing and maiming of children, and sexual violence.

Giving their full support to the Security Council resolution 1975*, adopted this week, the independent experts said that what is happening in the country may be tantamount to international crimes, of which the International Criminal Court may take action.

“I strongly condemn the killing of civilians, they are bearing the brunt of the on-going violence,” stressed the Special Rapporteur on arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns. “According to witnesses, civilians are being killed for expressing affiliation with particular political parties or killed in retaliation. Such actions are deplorable and must cease. It is the responsibility of both parties to the on-going crisis to ensure that they do not target civilians.” (more…)

During its 16th session, the Human Rights Council extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, and elected six new members of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, appointing Maina Kiai as the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.