Washington — The Syrian government’s violent crackdown on its political opponents has led the U.N. Human Rights Council to condemn its actions and call for an investigation into human rights abuses. In addition, President Obama has signed an executive order imposing U.S. sanctions on three senior officials in Syria’s security apparatus, as well as two entities connected with the violence.
The Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, adopted a resolution April 29 in which it “unequivocally” condemned the Syrian government’s use of “lethal violence against peaceful protesters” and “hindrance of access to medical treatment.”
The resolution calls on Syrian authorities to release all political prisoners and refrain from reprisals against demonstrators. It also urges authorities to “enlarge the scope of political participation aimed at ensuring civil liberties and enhancing social justice.”
The resolution requests that the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights “urgently dispatch a mission” to Syria to investigate allegations of human rights abuses with the goal of ensuring full accountability for any crimes. The investigative mission has also been asked to provide reports and updates on the human rights situation to the council.
In New York, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice welcomed the resolution, saying the human rights council had “stood against attempts to silence dissent with the use of gratuitous violence, which is not the act of a responsible government.”
In an April 29 statement, Rice said the resolution marked “an important precedent” for the council, and that the United States strongly supports its decision to ask for an investigation into Syrian human rights abuses.
Rice also noted that Syria is seeking membership on the human rights council, and said the resolution condemning its actions “underscores the incongruity” of its candidacy.
“Meeting legitimate calls for reform with tanks and bullets is unacceptable behavior by any government, least of all an aspiring member of the council,” she said.
Human rights groups have reported that about 500 people have been killed by Syrian security forces since demonstrations calling for greater political freedoms began in March. According to press reports, nearly 50 were killed April 29 as they were participating in demonstrations across the country.
President Obama signed an executive order April 29 that imposes sanctions on three Syrian security officials and two entities responsible for human rights abuses, including the use of violence against civilians.
The sanctions seize any property the individuals or entities have in the United States and prohibit Americans from engaging in transactions with them, according to an April 29 White House fact sheet.
The sanctions target Mahir al-Asad, who commands the Syrian army’s 4th Armored Division and has “played a leading role in the Syrian regime’s actions in Dar’a, where protesters have been killed by Syrian security forces,” the fact sheet said.
Also sanctioned are Atif Najib, who was the head of the Political Security Directorate (PSD) for Dar’a province during March, and Ali Mamluk, the director of Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate (GID).
According to the fact sheet, the GID, which is the “overarching civilian intelligence service” in the country, has been targeted by sanctions over its involvement in the regime’s actions in Dar’a as well as its activities to repress internal dissent and monitor Syrian citizens. The Obama administration has also sanctioned the Qods Force of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, saying it serves as the conduit for the Iranian government’s material support for the Syrian regime’s crackdown on civilians.
“Despite the Government of Iran’s public rhetoric claiming revolutionary solidarity with people throughout the region, Iran’s actions in support of the Syrian regime place it in stark opposition to the will of the Syrian people,” the fact sheet said.