(Washington, DC) –  As violence against civilians escalates across Syria, the Genocide Intervention Network/Save Darfur Coalition today called on the United States and international community to take steps to protect Syrian civilians.  Sam Bell, Executive Director of Genocide Intervention Network/Save Darfur Coalition issued the following statement:

“The government of Bashar al-Assad appears to have adopted the ‘Libya option,’ using military force to suppress protests across the country. The government’s use of tanks, heavy infantry, and snipers against civilians is absolutely unacceptable. And thousands of detained pro-democracy protesters are at great risk of rights abuse, given Syria’s history of torture.

“As Syria’s government is unwilling to stop its brutal attacks on its own population, the international community is obligated to take action to protect civilians in Syria. We urge the United States and other global leaders to:

  • Harmonize current international sanctions and expand existing sanctions to cover all Syrian government officials complicit in violence against demonstrators;
  • Encourage Syria’s neighbors to uphold the basic principles of international refugee law, including preventing the forcible return of refugees to Syria;
  • Support the UN Human Rights Council investigation into crimes committed against Syrian civilians to ensure accountability for perpetrators of human rights abuses;
  • Ensure corporations continuing to operate in Syria, particularly those acting in partnership with the government, uphold their responsibility to respect human rights and avoid complicity in violence. Telecommunications companies should be especially diligent given the potential – as seen in other recent conflicts – for their services and technology to be wielded as tools of oppression.”

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Background: Since mid-January, pro-reform demonstrators have protested against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.  These protests turned violent in mid-March, when the Syrian government violently suppressed demonstrations by besieging the southern city of Deraa. This overwhelming suppression has spread to other major cities across Syria, including Baniyas, Hama, and Homs.

According to human rights organizations, civilian fatalities range from 600 to more than 800 and an estimated ten thousand more people have been detained since demonstrations began.  Repeated cases of civilian deaths suggest that the cycle of protest and violent suppression is likely to continue.

The Save Darfur Coalition and Genocide Intervention Network merged on November 1, 2010 to create a more powerful voice dedicated to preventing and stopping large-scale, deliberate atrocities against civilians. The organization remains committed to its work to end the crisis in Darfur and bring peace to all of Sudan as well as to end violence in other areas of mass atrocities such as Congo and Burma.  The merger creates the world’s largest anti-genocide organization, with a membership base of hundreds of thousands of committed activists globally, an unparalleled nationwide student movement, more than 190 faith-based, advocacy and human rights partner organizations, and a network of institutional investors collectively representing more than $2 trillion in assets under management.

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