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UN human rights investigators still awaiting access to Syria

27 May 2011 – The United Nations said today it is still awaiting a response from the Syrian Government to a request for access for a human rights team to enter the country early next month to investigate the recent violence.

The assessment mission, which will be headed by Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang, is set to begin on 6 June after first visiting neighbouring countries, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Rupert Colville, spokesperson for OHCHR, told a news conference in Geneva that the Office remains “deeply concerned” about the situation on the ground, where Government security forces have clashed with protesters in a number of towns and cities for several weeks now.

“There is much conflicting information out there, and we urge the Government to grant us early access into the country to help clarify the issues,” he stated.

OHCHR is continuing to receive reports of excessive use of force against demonstrators, hundreds of whom have reportedly been killed or detained in recent weeks as the Government of President Bashar Assad responds to demonstrations that are part of a broader pro-democracy movement across the Middle East and North Africa.

“We have seen videos of beatings and sniping in the streets, reports of a campaign of detention of opposition and human rights activists, and incidents of torture and ill-treatment of those detained,” Mr. Colville reported.

“There are also allegations of killings by armed groups sponsored either by alleged external forces, or by operatives close to the regime,” he added.

Meanwhile, OHCHR welcomed the fact that Bahrain, which has also been witnessing a violent crackdown by the Government against pro-reform demonstrators, has agreed in principle to the deployment of a UN assessment mission to the country.

“As we prepare for this mission, we continue to receive reports about ongoing dismissals of people from their jobs, as well as trials of individuals, for their political views and for participating in the demonstrations earlier this year,” said Mr. Colville.

He noted that reports by non-governmental organizations estimate that the total number of detainees stood at more than 1,000, including 40 women, as of 18 May. Some 59 people, including one woman, remain unaccounted for.

“We hope to be able to further investigate these reports once our delegation is in the country.”

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