UN experts say Syria snubs demands on torture

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The Syrian government snubbed a U.N. committee when it failed to appear Wednesday or report on any efforts to prevent the use of torture, committee members said.

The Committee Against Torture said the Syrian delegation was a no-show at a scheduled meeting and did provide a report on whether it is complying with a U.N. convention against torture as it was required to do.

Syria was asked to explain whether it is complying with a 1987 U.N. convention against torture and heeding the committee's May 2010 recommendations, but its U.N. mission in Geneva wrote the U.N. in February questioning the committee's legitimacy. The committee's 10 independent experts monitor compliance with the convention, which Syria joined in 2004.

A committee statement cited "widespread violations" of the convention by the government and alleged abuses by armed opposition groups.

Committee chair Claudio Grossman said the government has carried out widespread killings, torture in hospitals, detention centers and secret detention facilities, and torture of children and sexual torture of male detainees.

He said security forces have regularly raided hospitals to find and kill injured demonstrators and used mass graves to cover up abuses.

Committee member Essaida Belmir said the world is seeing spiraling numbers of deaths and systematic torture, including a shocking number of children being tortured and killed.

Syria's U.N. mission did not immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment.

But the committee was explicit in its description of abuses that defy the U.N. effort to bring peace to Syria and monitor compliance with a troubled April 12 cease-fire agreement. The violence has continued ceaselessly on both sides despite the deployment of 200 U.N. observers throughout Syria to monitor the agreement.

"Witnesses had attested to the use of live ammunition against peaceful demonstrators and disproportionate means of crowd control including snipers, tanks, and heavy machine guns mounted on anti-personnel carriers and helicopters in urban areas," the committee said.

"Security forces also used rocket-propelled grenades and grenade launchers mounted on AK47s in other areas," it said. "Security forces were reported to break into homes and beat civilians including women and children and conduct mass arrests followed by transportation of people in buses and trucks to secret detention centers including public stadiums, where torture and inhuman treatment took place."

Syria's uprising began with mostly peaceful protests more than a year ago but many in the opposition took up arms in the face of a relentless government crackdown that the U.N. says has killed more than 9,000 people.