(New York) - Arab countries should join international efforts to establish an independent international inquiry into the Syrian government's use of lethal force against peaceful protesters, Human Rights Watch said today. Egypt and Tunisia should lead in advocating sanctions against those leaders responsible for the bloodshed, widespread arbitrary detention, and torture in Syria, Human Rights Watch said.
Since March 16, 2011, Syrian army and other security forces have killed more than 300 protesters. In recent days President Bashar al-Asad's government cut off access and communications with several cities, sending in tanks and troops in an effort to crush widespread public dissent. On April 25, the Arab League issued a statement condemning the use of force against pro-democracy protesters in several Arab countries, saying they "deserve support, not bullets" - but the statement stopped short of naming Syria and did not propose any concrete measures to end abuses.
"The Arab League is no longer a closed shop of autocrats and abusers so its members should name names and take action against serial rights violators like Syria," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Egypt and Tunisia, which have embraced democratic reforms, should support travel bans and asset freezes against Syrian officials responsible for the worst abuses."
While Lebanon, currently the only Arab country on the UN Security Council, is particularly susceptible to Syrian pressure, it should not actively oppose international efforts to stop rights abuses by the Syrian government, Human Rights Watch said.
Human Rights Watch also called on Egypt and Tunisia to take the lead in opposing Syria's election to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
"If Arab countries joined the emerging international outcry against the abuses of Bashar al-Asad's government, Syria would be more likely to listen and change course," said Stork.
Human Rights Watch also called on Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League and a declared candidate in Egypt's upcoming presidential election, to speak out clearly against rights violations in Syria.
"As Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa has a responsibility to show leadership on human rights in the Arab world," said Stork. "He should insist that the league backs up its condemnation of repression by taking meaningful action against the Syrian government."