BEIRUT – Adding to the international pressure on Syria, a U.N. panel on Monday accused the government of President Bashar Assad of gross human rights violations in its crackdown on protesters, including torturing and killing children, shooting unarmed demonstrators and raping detainees.
The 39-page report, prepared by an independent panel of experts for the U.N. Human Rights Council, offers the most detailed account yet of the crackdown, which the United Nations says has killed more than 3,500 people since major protests began in March.
At least 256 children had been killed in the crackdown as of early November, including a 2-year-old girl allegedly shot by an officer who said he did not want her to grow up to be a demonstrator, the report says. Several men told the panel they had been raped with rods and saw boys receive the same treatment. Some soldiers who refused to carry out orders to open fire on demonstrators were themselves reportedly shot and killed.
The opposition Local Coordination Committees reported 16 more deaths Monday, including a “little girl.” The claim could not be independently verified because the activities of journalists, human rights activists and international observers are heavily restricted in Syria.
Security forces sent to quell the demonstrations were given “shoot to kill” orders and in some cases fired indiscriminately at unarmed protesters, according to testimony provided to the panel. Most of those shot were hit in the upper body, including the head, the report said.
In a Nov. 17 letter addressed to the panel, Syria’s government blamed the bloodshed on “armed outlaws who are terrorizing our citizens … in order to divide the country along sectarian lines and incite civil war.” The government says more than 1,100 security force members have been killed.
Pressure has been mounting on Assad’s regime to curtail the violence. The report was released the day after the Arab League imposed sweeping sanctions on Syria, a move the country’s foreign minister, Walid Moallem, described as “economic war.” The official Syrian Arab News Agency said government supporters flooded squares in a number of cities and towns to protest the decision.
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