U.N. Human Rights chief distressed by situation in Syria, urges international action

In her interview to Al Arabiya, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urges member states to address the tragic human rights crisis in Syria. (Al Arabiya)

The time has come for immediate action to protect the lives in Syria, a top U.N. human rights official told Al Arabiya on Tuesday, describing the situation as “deeply distressing”.

“I have been reporting human rights violations in Syria for the past 11 months, but the situation has worsened,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya.

“The situation is deeply distressing. It’s a tragic situation now,” Pillay said, urging all U.N. Human Rights Council member states to address the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Syria.

Pillay said that she could not verify the number of people killed in Syria, especially during the last two months. “In this type of situation of daily deaths, it is very difficult to keep track.”

Pillay said that she has “credible evidence” of widespread systematic attacks against the civilian population. “It is not my view. It’s the view of the independent commission of enquiry in Syria,” she said.

“Crimes against humanity are taking place,” she said, adding that there is a need to the referral of the Syrian file to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The U.N. human rights official welcomes the attempt by the Arab League to address the situation in Syria and come up with solutions, especially after their latest call for a peacekeeping mission to be sent to Syria. “There has to be a ceasefire before peacekeeping. Once again that is a matter that is within the powers of the Security Council.

“I see hope in the fact that the Arab League has taken an interest in the matter and is even now considering all kinds of options on how they could intervene short of military intervention,” Pillay said when asked by Al Arabiya correspondent in New York Talal Alhaj about whether a Libya-like scenario could take place in Syria.

When asked about the means of torture used by the Syrian regime against civilians, Pillay said that “we just hear of rape being used as a means of torture in the detention cells. It concerns me when a government detains children to extract info from them or for whatever reason.”

“I can raise my voice and add to the pressure that is now building up from all sides upon President Assad to see the error of his ways, to stop the killings immediately and deliver on the legitimate calls made by the population for their human rights,” said the top U.N. human rights official.

“This is not the end of the story. It will come before the Security Council again. I am fully aware that both Russia and China are against what’s going on in Syria and want to be helpful and look for political solution,” said Pillay, pointing out that a “heavy price” is being paid by civilians in Syria.

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