(Washington, D.C.) -- Amnesty International today condemned reported mass killings in the Sunni town of Tremseh (al-Treimseh), saying the assault is further proof of the urgent need for full access for U.N. monitors to investigate human rights abuses.
According to Syrian opposition sources, scores of people were killed on Thursday morning when the Syrian army and security forces, along with pro-government militia known as Shabiha, attacked Tremseh near the city of Hama. Syrian state-run media have blamed "terrorist groups" for the killings.
U.N. mission chief Major General Robert Mood said today that U.N. observers are ready to go to Tremseh to seek verification of the facts if and when there was a credible ceasefire. He confirmed the continuous fighting yesterday, including the use of mechanized units, indirect fire and helicopters.
"The U.N. must be allowed unfettered access to investigate such incidents," said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa deputy director. "Without an independent presence, it is impossible to verify what really happened."
"Nevertheless, we know that a pattern of abuses has been widely reported," added Harrison. "Government forces have indiscriminately shelled towns and villages, unlawfully killing civilians, followed by incursions by the shabiha militia who have killed not only opposition fighters, but also many civilians, mainly men and boys."
The findings of Amnesty International's recent field investigation in Syria verified this pattern. The organization documented evidence of grave violations, including crimes against humanity and war crimes, committed by the Syrian army in towns and villages around Idlib, Aleppo, Jebel al-Zawiyah and Jebel al-Wastani areas.
The resolution renewing the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) should explicitly include a strong and adequately staffed human rights component. The mission must include sufficient expertise, including gender and children's rights experts, and other resources to document and report on crimes against humanity, war crimes and other grave human rights abuses committed by all sides.
"U.N. human rights monitors should have a rapid reaction capability to investigate specific incidents and a permanent presence in cities outside Damascus," said Harrison. "The U.N. Security Council should require UNSMIS to regularly and publicly publish its findings on human rights violations and provide the mission with the necessary capacity to do so."
Amnesty International renews its call on the U.N. Security Council to refer the situation to the prosecutor of the ICC.
"It has been evident for months now that crimes under international law are being committed on a mass scale," concluded Harrison. "An ICC referral will make clear to all sides that those who order or carry out war crimes and crimes against humanity will be brought to justice."
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.