For Immediate Release: July 6, 2011
Washington, D.C.—Concern is mounting that Syrian security forces loyal to the president, Bashar al-Assad may be preparing to carry out a raid on central Syrian city of Hama, endangering the lives of many thousands of civilians living in the city of 800,000 people.
“The situation in Syria cannot be allowed to deteriorate further. The U.S. government must lead international efforts to adopt a resolution condemning Syria’s actions at the UN Security Council. Syria’s leaders should be put on notice that they will be held to account for their actions,” said Neil Hicks of Human Rights First.
Syrian forces pulled back from Hama after clashes in early June that left more than 70 protesters dead in one day alone. Anti-regime protests have grown in Hama in recent weeks and Syrian forces are now reported to be moving towards the city to put them down.
Hama has a history of violent confrontation with Syria’s central authorities. In 1982, President Hafez al-Assad, the current president’s father, carried out a punitive raid on the city in which tens of thousands of civilians were killed.
Since protests broke out in Syria in March more than 1300 civilians have been killed. Before that figure increases, the UN Security Council should adopt the resolution, drafted by France, Germany and the UK, condemning the Syrian government for its brutal crackdown on protests. The unrest in Syria is causing regional instability, with thousands of refugees fleeing to neighboring Turkey.
Human Rights First calls on the Syrian government to refrain from all use of lethal force against civilians, and to respect the rights of civilians to take part in peaceful protests. Mass arrests and other methods designed to intimidate protesters should stop. It urges the Syrian government to lift restrictions on access to the country for independent journalists and to cooperate with international humanitarian agencies.