Syrian anger as UN puts death toll at 5,000


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The Independent Online

Syria has reacted furiously after the UN human rights chief increased pressure on the regime of Bashar al-Assad by upwardly revising the death toll during the country's uprising to 5,000.

Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the Security Council that the situation in Syria was now "intolerable" and urged the UN body to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court over alleged crimes against humanity.

Syria's ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, hit back fiercely, saying Ms Pillay's appearance before the council on Monday was part of a "huge conspiracy concocted against Syria since the beginning". He added that Ms Pillay had "trespassed her mandate".

The latest estimate is up from the previous figure of 4,000. It came as Human Rights Watch prepared to release a report also calling for Syria to be referred to the ICC. The organisation said it would be naming 70 commanders and officials who should be investigated over their alleged roles in committing atrocities over the past nine months.

"Between Pillay's briefing and our report, there really is no excuse for continued inaction at the Security Council," said Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch.

In Syria yesterday there was no let-up in the killings. A total of 28 people were killed across the country, according to reports. An activist in Damascus, who called himself Basel, told The Independent that the UN's figures highlighted the need for Western intervention. "We are sure now that the facts on the ground mean we need military support," he said.

But Adib Shishakli, a leading member of the Syrian National Council, an umbrella opposition group, said the West could help by offering "logistical" support to regime opponents.

"So far the only response we have got has been boycotts and embargoes, but nothing is stopping the killing," he said. "It's obviously not enough."

Not every member of the international community backed Ms Pillay. The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said critics should do more to condemn violence by protesters.