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UN officials concerned over Middle East rights violations

UN human rights officials expressed concern [UN News Centre report] Friday over rights violations in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen where governments have responded to ongoing reform protests with crackdowns and military deployments. The Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] is worried about NGO reports from Syria indicating as many as 850 people have been killed and thousands more arrested since demonstrations began in March. The UN Human Rights Council [official website] has ordered an assessment of the situation on the ground pending approval from Syrian authorities. Also in the Middle East, reports from Bahrain have indicated incommunicado detentions and denial of due process for hundreds of people connected with protests in the country, along with the reported torture and even death of some detainees. OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville stated:

We reiterate our call for prompt, impartial and transparent investigations into these allegations of grave human rights violations. We are deeply concerned about the reported scale of arbitrary detention and of the trials of civilians before military courts leading to life imprisonment and death sentences, which we have already said is illegal.
Colville also publicly urged Bahraini security forces to refrain from using force against peaceful protesters in planned upcoming demonstrations. Regarding nearby Yemen, Colville said the situation on the ground is difficult to assess due to authorities' lack of cooperation for humanitarian access, especially to afflicted areas. However, the OHCHR has condemned continued rights violations and killings across the country, and stands ready to deploy human rights officers to assess the situation, should Yemeni officials grant permission for such a visit.

At the end of April, the Human Rights Council, in an emergency special session, publicly condemned the violence [JURIST report] used by Syrian authorities against peaceful protesters. Also last month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for Syria to immediately halt the killings [JURIST report] and violence against civilian protesters in response to the fatal shootings of peaceful anti-government protesters. Pillay also urged the government of Bahrain to release detained activists [JURIST report] and exercise restraint against protesters. She expressed concern over the prosecution of medical professionals and the death sentences [JURIST report] handed to four activists last month. Earlier this month, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [text; PDF] urging the international community to pressure Yemeni authorities to investigate the deaths of protesters [JURIST report]. The report chronicles reports of beatings and use of excessive force by security forces including shootings of peaceful protesters. AI criticized the response of authorities to the mounting death tolls as woefully inadequate.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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