- The Washington Times - Monday, November 28, 2011

Children were raped, tortured, illegally detained and shot dead in a crackdown by Syria’s military and security forces on protesters for democracy, a U.N. investigation reported Monday.

“Several methods of torture, including sexual torture, were used by the military and the security forces in detention facilities across the country,” according to the 39-page report released in Geneva by a special commission.

“The substantial body of evidence gathered by the commission indicates that these gross violations of human rights have been committed by Syrian military and security forces since the beginning of the protests in March.”

One military defector told the commission that he decided to defect after witnessing the shooting of a 2-year-old girl by an officer who said that he did not want her to grow up to be a demonstrator. At least 256 children had been killed as of Nov. 9.

Syria “has failed its obligations under international human rights law,” the report added.

Neither the Syrian mission to the United Nations in New York nor the Syrian Embassy in Washington responded to requests for comment.

The U.N. Human Rights Council established the commission in March to investigate charges of Syrian human rights abuses. The Syrian government refused to allow the commission to visit the country.

The report - written by Paulo Pinheiro, Yakin Erturk and Karen Koning AbuZayd - is based on testimonies from 223 victims and witnesses of alleged human rights violations. The commission also interviewed Syrian defectors from the military and the security forces.

The report found that male detainees, especially boys, were sexually abused and tortured. Young boys were tortured at detention facilities across the country, including at the air force Intelligence detention facilities in and around Damascus.

“Numerous testimonies indicated that boys were subjected to sexual torture in places of detention in front of adult men,” the report said.

Detainees were beaten, subjected to electric shocks and deprived of food, water and sleep.

Military defectors told the commission that they had received orders to shoot at unarmed protesters without warning. They said that their comrades who refused to execute orders to fire at civilians were killed.

Defectors who were deployed at checkpoints and roadblocks said they were given “black lists” with names of people wanted by the authorities and orders to shoot them.

People injured in the crackdown were tortured and killed in military hospitals by security forces dressed as doctors, the report said.

Schools were used as detention facilities, and snipers were deployed on the rooftops, the report said.

The commission called on the Syrian government to put an immediate end to the ongoing human rights violations, initiate independent and impartial investigations and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has accused the protesters of being armed gangs and terrorists who are funded from outside the country.

On Sunday, the Arab League, which suspended Syria earlier this month, adopted unprecedented sanctions against Damascus and the Assad regime.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem condemned the move as a declaration of “economic war” on Damascus.

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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