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On Wednesday the Security Council released a presidential statement concerning Syria by Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri of India, who is the acting President of the Council this month. The statement calls upon Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to implement democratic reforms, demanding a peaceful Syrian-led transformation of government from one that perpetrates crimes against humanity to one that respects and protects fundamental rights and freedoms, such as the freedoms of expression and assembly.
The statement is the first formal UN document to condemn the violence and gross human rights violations that have occurred in Syria since March. The statement calls for:
- The full respect and protection of fundamental rights and freedoms;
- Humanitarian workers to have access to the Syrian people;
- The full cooperation of the Assad regime with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights;
- Calls upon the UN Secretary General to provide a report to the Council in seven days with an update on government actions in Syria.
This is an important first step towards substantive UN action in Syria and comes after months of pressure from the international community.
Anticipating more protest activity, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government forces engaged in its most violent assault against civilians before the dawn of the holy month of Ramadan on Sunday July 31st. Remarks from UN representatives and renewed media attention have followed since the resurgence of government-directed violence in Syria has led to the deaths of many civilians during one of the holiest times on the Islamic calendar.
The crackdown led to an unknown number of dead and wounded civilians, adding to the ever increasing death-toll since the beginning of the Syrian uprising in mid-March. International journalists, independent human rights organizations and representatives connected to the mandated UN fact-finding mission in Syria are all banned from entering the country. In light of these restrictions, the number of dead and wounded in Syria since March is estimated to be just under 2,000 people, but cannot be confirmed.
As Melissa Kaplan wrote in her most recent blog post, “the madness continues…,” as UN funding was slashed in the House Appropriations subcommittee yesterday during the mark up of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. The Foreign Relations Authorization Act (H.R. 2583) and State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill detract from U.S. diplomacy and development efforts by cutting UN funding and State Department funds for foreign assistance programs, as well as by strengthening the slew of restrictions that are attached to foreign aid and UN-designated dollars.