But there has been no visible slowing of the crackdown. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Monday that the steadily mounting death toll in Syria had topped 2,200 civilians, including 39 demonstrators killed since Assad made his pledge to the U.N. chief.
“The military and security forces continue to employ excessive force, including heavy artillery, to quell peaceful demonstrations,” Pillay said at the opening of a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council on the situation in Syria. “Despite assurances from President Assad to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday that military operations had finished, I regret to note that at least five people were killed around the country on Thursday and 34 more on Friday by Syrian military and security forces.”
Assad partially complied with an appeal by Ban to allow a humanitarian assessment team into Syria for the first time. But Syrian security forces turned the team away from the town of Homs, the site of a brutal military crackdown, after a protest began there.
“The mission did proceed to Homs as planned,” said Ban’s spokesman, Farhan Haq. “A protest situation developed there, and the mission was advised to leave for security reasons.” But Haq denied reports that the U.N. mission had “come under fire.”
The Syrian government’s ongoing military crackdown on civilians has deepened Assad’s isolation, prompting President Obama and key European leaders from Britain, France and Germany to call for him to step down.
The U.N. Human Rights Council, meanwhile, met Monday to discuss a draft resolution calling for the establishment of a commission to investigate allegations of Syrian abuses, according to a draft statement obtained by The Washington Post.
Four Arab countries — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Jordan — are expected to join the United States and European governments in supporting the rights council’s draft statement, which “strongly condemns” the government’s “continued grave and systematic human rights violations” and insists that those responsible for the violence be held accountable for their crimes. A vote is expected Tuesday.
“The United States deplores Assad’s campaign of ever-increasing brutality and terror against unarmed innocents, which may amount to crimes against humanity,” Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council, told the Geneva-based council Monday. “The Assad regime has no intention of ceasing its violent attacks against the Syrian people.”
In New York, Ban appeared personally affronted.
“It is troubling that he has not kept his word,” Ban told reporters at U.N. headquarters. “Many world leaders have been speaking to him to halt immediately military operations that are killing his own people, and he assured me [that he would] do that and [that] military operations have already stopped. . . . I sincerely hope that he heeds the international community’s appeal and call” for restraint.