By Mark McMurray
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
DAMASCUS, Syria — Several Western nations expelled Syrian diplomats in a coordinated response to last Friday’s violence in Houla. Following the release of a United Nations report on Tuesday describing how many of the victims were shot dead at close range, the United States, Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Australia, Canada, Spain, Belgium, Bulgaria, and the Netherlands participated in the global diplomatic action.
The report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) described how most of the 108 victims were shot at close range with fewer than twenty killed by artillery. Rupert Colville, an OHCHR spokesman, explained: “this was an absolutely abominable event that took place in Houla, and at least a substantial part of it was summary executions of civilians, women and children [where] entire families were shot in their houses.”
Pro-government paramilitary thugs known as shabiha were blamed for the house-to-house killings. “Unfortunately, these allegations are consistent with other incidents documented by my office, the international Commission of Inquiry on Syria and other human rights organizations,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay said on Tuesday. Syria has denied responsibility, calling the Houla massacre a “terrorist massacre” perpetrated by “armed terrorists” who attacked the military in the area, killing civilians.
UN and Arab League representative Kofi Annan met with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday in Damascus. Annan appealed “for bold steps now – not tomorrow, now – to create momentum for the implementation of the plan. This means that the Government, and all Government-backed militias, could stop all military operations and show maximum restraint.” The six-point peace plan offered by Annan to end the bloodshed back in March has not been implemented. The Houla massacre is only the latest in a long string of atrocities that have taken place over the past fourteen months.
The U.S. and its allies are considering seeking further sanctions by the UN Security Council against Syria according to US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. However, Russia has blocked two measures in the past and has threatened to veto future attempts.
French President Francois Hollande went so far as to mention the possible use of military force. Speaking to France 2 television, he said, “military intervention is not excluded provided it is carried out under the auspices of international law, namely via a Security Council resolution.” Hollande went on to say, “it is down to myself and others to convince Russia and China, and also to find a solution which is not necessarily a military one.” On Friday, he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris.
For more information, please see:
Al-Ahram – Syria Opposition Seeks Resolution Authorising Use of Force – 29 May 2012
Al Jazeera – Syria Diplomats Face Expulsions over Massacre – 29 May 2012
Bloomberg – U.S., Allies Expel Syrian Diplomats after Houla Massacre – 29 May 2012
The New York Times – Western Nations, Protesting Killings, Expel Syrian Envoys – 29 May 2012
United Nations News Centre – Joint UN-Arab League Envoy Urges Syrian President to Take “Bold Steps” to End Violence – 29 May 2012