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(New York) – Following the deadliest assault to date on Syrian protesters Sunday and more casualties reported Monday in the shelling of the city of Hama, Amnesty International repeated its demand that the United Nations Security Council urgently respond to the violence. With the death toll at 1,500 people since March in what amounts to crimes against humanity, Amnesty International said at a minimum, the United Nations must impose an arms embargo, freeze the assets of President al-Assad and others suspected of crimes against humanity and refer the situation to the International Criminal Court for investigation.
"It is long past time for the U.N. Security Council to take concrete steps to end the bloody crackdown in Syria that continues to claim countless lives amid peaceful protests," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa. The Security Council was expected to discuss the ongoing violence Monday.
On Sunday, at least 52 people were believed to have been killed while two more people were reportedly killed in fresh violence in Hama on Monday. Elsewhere across Syria, people took to the streets today in massive protests against the latest killings.
"The Syrian authorities have unleashed their deadliest assault yet on mainly peaceful protesters calling for reform," said Luther, "It's clear that President al-Assad is unwilling to halt his security forces, so the U.N. must take decisive action to stem this violent campaign of repression."
Syrian troops returned to Hama in force in recent days after pulling out of the restive city a month ago.
Troops and tanks reportedly attempted to re-enter the city early Sunday, attacking residential areas with shells and machine-gun fire. Dozens died as residents attempted to halt the troops' advance.
In other parts of Syria, including the eastern city of Dayr al-Zor where intense shooting was reported Sunday, clashes with security forces left 11 people dead.
A human rights activist told Amnesty International that some security personnel had also been killed or kidnapped in both Hama and Dayr al-Zor.
An employee at one of Hama's four hospitals informed Amnesty International that the facility had received 19 corpses since yesterday, including 18 civilian men and one policeman. All had been shot in the head and the chest.
The policeman, Mahmoud 'Abboud, was reportedly mediating between the protesters and the police station in the city when he was shot in the head and brought to the hospital by protesters.
According to state news agency SANA, "armed groups" in Hama and Dayr al-Zor shot dead six members of the army and security forces and attacked public and private property. The news agency also reported that Syrian President al-Assad praised troops for "foiling the enemies of Syria" in the weekend's operations, which coincided with the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Amnesty International has received the names of more than 1,500 people believed to have been killed since pro-reform protests began in mid-March. Many of those who died are reported to be protesters and local residents shot by live ammunition from the security forces and the army.
Thousands of others have been arrested in the wake of protests, with many being held incommunicado and many reported to have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated in custody, in some cases resulting in death. Based on its research, Amnesty International has concluded that crimes against humanity have occurred as they appear to be part of a widespread, as well as systematic, attack against the civilian population.
Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, as it did with Libya's government in June, following the violent repression of protests there.
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.
For more information, please visit: www.amnestyusa.org