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Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Page: 6887

Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (13:50): A few months ago it would have been unthinkable for Syrian people to raise their voices against the Al-Assad regime, which has ruled their lives for so long. But the Arab Spring, which has seen uprisings against dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain, is dawning in Syria, too, as the people there express their desire for freedom and dignity, which expression has been met with a deadly response.

As many as 150,000 protesters took to the streets last Friday in cities right across the country, despite the state security's use of live gunfire, beatings, random arrests and torture to try to suppress the protests. More than 1,000 protesters have been killed and more than 10,000 have been arrested, or have disappeared, according to rights organis­ations.

Information about the true extent of the casualties of the crackdown is difficult to gather—foreign press are banned, telephone services, internet services and electricity are regularly cut in protest areas and physical movement is restricted by checkpoints and searches. The regime has shown that there are no limits on what it is willing to do to prevent the truth from getting out. It has blamed the killings and violence on 'armed gangs' and 'extremists and terrorists' but has offered little more than transparent fabrications to justify its actions. The sense of impunity within the security forces is so great that they even return bodies that bear signs of torture, including those of children, to families.

As the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect website notes:

All governments, including Syria, have a responsibility to protect their populations from mass atrocity crimes. It is crucial that … UN Member States use all available leverage to encourage an end to the crackdown …