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UN flags Syrian rights violations, lobbies for aid

Published time: February 23, 2012 09:30
Edited time: February 23, 2012 23:26

Members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) take position in Idlib in northwestern Syria on February 22, 2012 (Topshots / AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)

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The UN has said they have found evidence of crimes against humanity committed by Syrian officials and opposition members. The organization is also lobbying to send a humanitarian ambassador to Syria to push for increased access for aid groups.

Experts from the UN have compiled a list of Syrian officials and officers that could face an investigation probe for crimes against humanity and other gross human rights violations. The list reportedly also contains the names of several opposition members who have committed crimes of lesser severity.

The names of those who may be subject to a probe were handed to the UN human rights office in Geneva on Thursday.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos will push for a daily two-hour ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to civilians in the most hard-hit areas of the country. She will “assess the humanitarian situation and renew the call for urgent humanitarian access,” said UN spokesperson Eduardo del Buey.

The International Committee for the Red Cross proposed the daily ceasefire on Monday and began negotiations with opposition representatives in Geneva.

The Syrian government has not yet given the plan the green light but the UN has said it is confident the “Syrian government will respond positively.”

 Meanwhile, activists say that Syrian tanks pushed into Homs on Thursday, Reuters reports."Explosions are shaking the whole of Homs,” a Homs-based activist was quoted as saying.

Russia has launched an initiative to provide support the Red Cross ceasefire and the access of humanitarian aid to Syria.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said on Wednesday that Russia was working with the Syrian government and opposition representatives with the aim of “providing safety of humanitarian cargo deliveries, we are actively working with Syria.”

Russia had previously vetoed a Security Council resolution on the conflict along with China on the basis it was unbalanced backs the humanitarian mission to Syria.

Over the last couple of days Syrian activists report that at least 70 people have died in the third week of shelling of the city of Homs by government forces. In light of these reports of escalating bloodshed there has been growing fears amongst the international community that the situation could descend into a humanitarian disaster.

RT’s Maria Finoshina, on the scene in Damascus, reported that, according to RT sources, government forces had taken control of Homs.She stressed that if the reports were confirmed then it could open the door to a new dialogue between the opposition and Assad’s government.

Opposition activists have said that government forces have resumed their shelling of the city of Homs.

Escalating conflict heralds military intervention?

The rising civilian death toll and the death of two foreign journalists in Homs on Wednesday have re-ignited the debate for international military intervention in Syria.

A spokeswoman from key opposition organization the Syrian National Council issued a statement on Wednesday saying that international military intervention may be the only way to curb the violence in the country. She also said that the creation of humanitarian corridors would only be possible if the international community upped the pressure on Assad’s regime.

Correspondent Maria Finoshina spoke to opposition member Aref Dalilya, representative of the National Coordination Committee who hinted at the divided nature of the opposition with regard to international intervention.

“We don’t want any interference from abroad. These countries may think they can use this for their own interests – Syrian people will not allow this. But to be able to resist – strong political reform is needed,” he said.

Thus far the international community has ruled out military intervention, believing it will severely worsen the situation. However, the US government is under increasing pressure to supply arms to the Syrian rebels and is willing to consider “additional measures” according to Jay Carney, a spokesperson from the White House. Republican senator John McCain has on a number of occasions said that the US should arm the rebels.

The director of international studies at Hartford's Trinity College in the US, Vijay Prashad, spoke to RT regarding the Syrian rebels. He described how contingents of the opposition had hijacked peaceful protests to militarize the conflict and appeal for foreign intervention.

“The Syrian National Council always wanted foreign intervention. You have an uprising in a city and then you call for the cruise missiles and F16’s of the US and NATO. That was always the strategy of the Syrian National Council. That was not necessarily the strategy to the mass of people gathering in the streets.”

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