UN condemns Syrian government for violence

General Assembly approves Qatari-drafted measure condemning alleged rights abuses by government amid continued violence.

    The UN General Assembly has voted to pass a resolution condemning the Syrian government for human rights violations and call for a transitional government.

    The measure was approved by a vote of 107 to 12, with 59 member states abstaining. That was a tighter margin than in August of last year, when 133 states voted to approve a similar resolution. Russia fiercely opposed the resolution as a potential obstacle to peace talks.

    The resolution strongly condemns the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on two points: the escalation of heavy weapons on civilian areas, and what Qatar, which drafted the statement, calls systematic violations of human rights.

    Thursday's resolution expresses grave concern that the Syrian government is using chemical weapons, calls for unfettered access to UN investigators, and pushes again for a Syrian-led political transition, with the opposition Syrian National Coalition as the representatives of the Syrian people.

    The vote comes amidst heavy fighting outside the central prison in Aleppo, and elsewhere inside Syria

    The vote came just after an announcement by Vuk Jeremic, the General Assembly president, that the death toll from Syria's two-year civil war is at least 80,000, an increase of about 20,000 since the start of the year.

    Navi Pillay, the UN human rights chief, said on January 2 that more than 60,000 people had been killed during the revolt against Assad, which began with peaceful protests but turned violent when government forces cracked down.

    "At least 80,000 have perished since the start of the hostilities, with most of those casualties believed to be civilians," Jeremic told the 193 members of the General Assembly before Thursday's vote.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), an opposition group, said on Tuesday that at least 94,000 people have been killed but the death toll is likely to be as high as 120,000.

    Fighting in Aleppo

    On the ground, meanwhile, Syrian troops backed by tanks and warplanes succeeded in repelling an attack on the central prison in Aleppo after rebels blew up its walls with two suicide car bombings, according to the SOHR.

    The fighting continued for hours, but the rebels were unable to reach the area where prisoners are held, according to Rami Abdel Rahman, SOHR's head, and the Aleppo Media Centre, an activist group in the city.

    About 4,000 prisoners, including ideological opponents and common-law criminals, are held in the prison on the outskirts of Aleppo, which is largely under rebel control, Abdel Rahman said.

    A child was killed and seven members of a family were wounded in the bombings, the SOHR said, citing activists on the ground.

    The Syrian state news agency SANA confirmed that government forces repelled the opposition fighters.

    In another incident on Wednesday, an explosion reportedly rocked Ummayad Square in central Damascus.

    A soldier at the scene reported injuries in the blast caused by a sticky bomb attached to a car near a checkpoint outside the army chief of staff offices.

    Clashes in Hama

    The SOHR, which relies on a network of activists and medics across the country, also reported clashes in the central province of Hama and on the international highway in Damascus province.

    Elsewhere, violent clashes were reported in Idlib province, in the northwest, and in Deraa in the south.

    The official news agency SANA that internet and telephone lines were down because of a faulty fibre optic cable, in the second such incident in the past week.

    Syria's internet was down for two days last week, with state media blaming the blackout on a technical fault but activists and a watchdog accusing the regime of deliberating cutting the connection to shield military operations.

    In violence across Syria on Tuesday, 99 people were killed, according to the SOHR.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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