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UN Chief Ban Ki-moon
UN Chief Ban Ki-moon

Ban Ki-moon: Both Sides in Syria Violating Rights

(DP-News - agencies)
United Nations, NY- In an address to the U.N. General Assembly, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused both the Syrian government and the opposition Tuesday of large-scale human rights violations, including torturing and reportedly executing prisoners and failing to protect civilians fleeing the war-ravaged country in record numbers.

Ban demanded that those responsible for violating international humanitarian and human rights laws be held accountable.

The U.N. chief went before the 193-nation world body to report on an intensifying conflict that he said has taken "a particularly brutal turn." He warned that "the entire region is being engulfed by the complex dynamics of the conflict."

Ban said more than 2.5 million people inside Syria need assistance, along with those who have fled to Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. He urged donors to come forward, saying the U.N. appeal for $180 million is only half-funded.

The U.N. chief accused Syrian forces of indiscriminately shelling densely populated areas with heavy weapons, tanks and military aircraft and urged both sides — but especially President Bashar Assad's government — to end the fighting.

Ban lamented that civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence, saying even people in bread lines have been attacked.

"Prisoners on both sides are subject to harsh treatment and, often, torture," he said. "There have been alarming reports of summary executions on both sides."

He added, "Government forces and the armed opposition have clearly failed to protect civilians and respect the rules of international humanitarian law."

The U.N. chief urged the world to unite behind a plan to end the conflict.

Missing in all international initiatives so far, Ban said, "is a unity of effort that will have an impact on the ground."

"How many more will be killed and wounded, their lives shattered, before president Assad and his advisers are persuaded to change course?" Ban asked. "How can we convince armed groups that a better future lies not in fighting, but in building the foundations of a new political and social contract that guarantees freedom and justice?"

The secretary-general appealed to those providing arms to either side to end the "highly dangerous" escalating military action.

"Those who provide arms to either side are only contributing to further misery — and the risk of unintended consequences as the fighting intensifies and spreads," he warned.

The General Assembly meeting also provided the first opportunity for U.N. member states to hear from Lakhdar Brahimi, the new U.N.-Arab League special representative to Syria. Brahimi replaced Kofi Annan on Sept. 1.

Ban urged all countries to unite behind Brahimi's mission, which he called "daunting but not insurmountable."

Ban said Brahimi will visit Cairo shortly for talks with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby before heading to Damascus "as soon as possible."
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