Saturday, December 3, 2011
Syria is now in a state of civil war with more than 4,000 dead and increasing numbers of defecting soldiers taking up arms against the government of President Bashar Assad, the top United Nations human rights official said on Thursday.
"We are placing the figure at 4,000, but really the reliable information coming to us is that it is much more than that," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told a news conference.
"I have said that as soon as there were more and more defectors threatening to take up arms, I said this in August before the Security Council, there was going to be a civil war. At the moment that's how I am characterizing this," she said.
Meanwhile, the European Union on Thursday adopted new sanctions against Syria to increase pressure on its regime to end the crackdown.
The Syria sanctions were expected to be wide-ranging, diplomats said, affecting everything from the sale of computer software and insurance to Syria's banking and energy sectors.Travel bans and asset freezes would also be applied to 12 people and 11 entities.
The U.S. Treasury Department also imposed further sanctions on Thursday against two Syrian officials and two firms for supporting the Syrian government and urged more pressure to bring an end to violence against protesters.
The treasury blacklisted Muhammad Makhluf, an uncle of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad, and Aus Asla who was described as a general in the Syrian military and said Americans are banned from any dealings with them.
It also named the Military Housing Establishment as a Syrian government-controlled company that provides financing to the regime and Real Estate Bank, which Treasury said handles borrowing for the government. Americans are prohibited from any dealings with the firms.
Treasury said it was critical to escalate pressure against the Syrian government to stop the use of brutal tactics against pro-democracy protesters.
On Sunday, the Arab League approved a series of financial sanctions against Syria.
The sanctions are believed to include a travel ban on senior Syrian officials and a halt to commercial flights to the country. Dealings with Syria's central bank would be halted, but basic commodities needed by the Syrian people would be exempted from the list of sanctions.
The move to impose new sanctions on Syria was supported by 19 of the 22 Arab League states.