Rights groups demand UN action on Syria

Amnesty International on Monday led calls for decisive UN Security Council action on Syria's deadly crackdown against protests after UN investigators said crimes against humanity had been committed.

Amnesty called on the 15-member Security Council, which has yet to pass a resolution on the Syrian crackdown, to refer the case to the International Criminal Court, order an arms embargo and freeze the assets of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his associates.

"Continued inaction by the Security Council will not only allow the commission with impunity of more human rights violations in Syria, but embolden present and future violators," said an Amnesty statement.

A UN human rights commission said Monday that Syrian security forces had committed crimes against humanity following orders from the "highest levels" of government.

Human Rights Watch said the UN Human Rights Council must now refer the Syria case to the UN Security Council.

"The Human Rights Council should take the necessary steps to support implementation of the commission's recommendations, including calling on the UN Security Council to impose targeted sanctions and refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court," said HRW specialist Philippe Dam.

Last month, China and Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution, drawn up by France, Britain, Germany and Portugal, condemning the Syria violence. Russia, China and other members of the council said the western nations only wanted "regime change."

Arab League sanctions against Syria and the new UN report are likely to increase pressure for new action at the council however.

The Syrian crackdown on anti-regime protests that started in mid-March has killed over 3,500 civilians, according to UN estimates.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

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