Syria massacres must spur world action: UN rights chief

GENEVA (AFP) - United Nations (UN) human rights chief Navi Pillay on Friday called for urgent international action to halt the bloodshed in Syria following reports of recent massacres carried out by Syrian troops and their allies.

Several reported mass killings in and around the Mediterranean Syrian city of Banias "should spur the international community to act to find a solution to the conflict, and to ensure those responsible for serious human rights violations are made to account for their crimes," the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement.

Rights monitors say at least 62 civilians, including 14 children, were killed in an assault on a Sunni neighbourhood of Banias earlier this month, after at least 50 people were killed in the nearby village of Bayda.

"I am appalled at the apparent killing of women, children and men in the village of Al-Bayda, and possibly elsewhere in the Baniyas area, which seem to indicate a campaign targeting specific communities perceived to be supportive of the opposition," Ms Pillay said.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, her spokesman Rupert Colville described "harrowing images of piles of bloodied and burned bodies, including small children and babies," which, if verified, "indicate a complete lack of regard for the lives of civilians".

"There needs to be a careful investigation of each and every incident like this. We should not reach the point in this conflict where people become numb to the atrocious killing of civilians," Ms Pillay said in her statement.

The UN rights chief lamented the serious human rights violations that have taken place in Syria during more than two years of spiralling violence which has cost more than 70,000 lives.

She reiterated her belief that "war crimes and/or crimes against humanity have been committed," and once again called for the deadlocked UN Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.

"We must make it clear to both the (Syrian) government and the armed opposition groups that there will be clear consequences for the people responsible for these crimes," she said.

Ms Pillay meanwhile welcomed an agreement reached by Russia and the United States this week to hold an international conference in search of a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

"The increasingly brutal nature of that conflict makes international efforts to halt the bloodshed imperative, but we need a much greater sense of urgency," she said.

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