MIDDLE EAST & NORTH AFRICA: Update on State crackdown on civilian protesters

Summary: The death toll of pro-democracy protesters in the region continues to rise, as some governments intensify their crackdown on civilians.

Libya

Forces loyal to Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi have killed around 10,000 people since the government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters began in mid-February, while 20,000 more are still missing, the country’s National Transition Council has said. Meanwhile, UNICEF has reported that at least 20 children, the majority under ten years old, have been killed in the last 20 days due to shrapnel from mortars and tanks, and bullet wounds in the northwestern city of Misrata.

Yemen

Around 100 civilians have been killed in Yemen since anti-government demonstrations first took to the streets in mid-January. The six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council has written a proposal for political transition to help end the crisis in Yemen. However on Tuesday, tens of thousands of civilians demonstrated against the proposal because it gives President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in power since 1978, immunity from prosecution. More on the story.

Notably, several key figures have defected in Yemen in protest against the government crackdown, including the army general, Ali Mohsen. Yemen's attorney general, Abdullah Al-Olufi, is also threatening to resign unless the government investigates the killing of almost 60 protesters last month and holds the perpetrators to account. Full story.

Bahrain

Thirty-one people have been killed in Bahrain as a result of the State crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, says the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR). The organisation, whose website has been blocked in the country, has developed a detailed list of victims of State violence.

BCHR is also monitoring the number of detained and disappeared persons. It reports that over 600 have been detained, the youngest only twelve years old. One Bahraini woman has entered her fourth day of a hunger strike in protest against the unlawful detention of her father, a well known human rights advocate, who was beaten unconscious in his home by masked soldiers before being taken into police custody. Full story.

Syria

Despite a mounting death toll of more than 130 civilians in Syria’s protests, the authorities have vowed to crush what they think of as a conspiracy to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. On Friday alone, 28 protesters were killed in the cities of Daraa, Harasta and Douma. Security forces also prevented medical personnel from attending to injured protesters, while protesters were prevented access to hospitals. There are also reports that Syrian soldiers have been shot by security forces for refusing to fire on protesters. More on the story.

In response to the State’s violence, the Director of the MENA division at Human Rights Watch, Sarah Leah Whitson, has said that "Syria's leaders talk about political reform, but they meet their people's legitimate demands for reform with bullets," adding that "the violence of their security forces is what is harming Syria the most." Full story.

Meanwhile the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has urged the Syrian government to immediately stop using force against peaceful protesters as “nowhere [else] has this strategy succeeded in quelling discontent. Indeed, it has only fuelled frustration and anger.” With reference to most governments’ response to civilian uprisings in the region, Pillay added that if they had “responded more thoughtfully, without violence, to the demands of the people, so much death, so much destruction, so much of the fear and uncertainty faced by ordinary people could have been averted,” and that all people want is “to enjoy the fundamental human rights which they have been denied for so long.” Read the full statement here.

 

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