Wednesday, May 18, 2011
[18 May 2011] - Rights activists have called for international action against the Syrian regime after graves containing up to 26 bodies were allegedly unearthed by residents near the southern city of Deraa.
The government, facing more than two months of protests against its rule, yesterday denied the existence of the graves, which reportedly contained the bodies of an unidentified woman and child.
"I have spoken to eyewitnesses in Deraa who told me that five bodies belonging to one family were discovered," said Radwan Ziadeh, a Syrian human rights activist based in the US. "I spoke to the man's son. He said they discovered the bodies on Tuesday morning."
Reuters reported that four villagers contacted the local civil defence force after finding two mounds of earth in wheat fields just outside Deraa's old city. Under the mounds were 22 to 26 decomposed bodies, they said. Videos uploaded to YouTube allegedly show people digging up the graves using shovels and mechanical diggers.
Wissam Tarif, director of the Syrian human rights organisation Insan, said he had collected testimony which suggested up to 44 bodies could have been in two separate graves.
The Syrian government said the reports were part of a "campaign of incitement" against the army and security forces. "This information is totally false," the Interior Ministry told the Syrian state news agency, Sana. The news organisation also quoted a local official in Deraa who said that five bodies had been discovered in the town on Sunday.
Ausama Monajed, of the opposition umbrella group the National Initiative for Change, said: "With the discovery of mass graves in Deraa City, it becomes very hard to ignore the need for immediate action by the international community to prevent further bloodshed in the country."
Nick Harvey, Britain's Armed Forces Minister, said it was "highly likely" the International Criminal Court would attempt to take action against President Bashar al-Assad for his role in the violent repression of pro-reform protests, which began in Deraa.
The government has continued its crackdown against protesters. Mass arrests were reported in Homs, Latakia and Deir al-Zor, while soldiers have also been deployed in Tel Kelakh, a city of about 30,000 people on the Lebanese border. Protesters are calling for a general strike today to try to force President Assad from power.
Posted by Cole at 10:27 AM