Arab League bid to end new bloodbath in Syria
Published 23/12/2011 | 05:00
AN Arab League delegation flew to the Syrian capital of Damascus yesterday as a further escalation in violence threatened to nullify what little hope it may have had of engineering a peace accord.
The mission was agreed weeks ago, but was delayed by wrangling over its size, remit and access to trouble spots.
In the meantime, thousands more people have been killed and parts of Syria have plunged into open warfare between the military and defectors in the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The opposition has also become more radical in its demands for outside intervention.
A commander with the FSA in the embattled city of Homs, called for the outside world to send arms "to protect the civilian population".
The Arab League last month voted for sanctions against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. But it faces a quandary about what to do next, and the West is unlikely to take the lead in attempts to deal with the Assad regime as it did with that of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya.
The paradoxical nature of the League's attempts to be a regional guarantor of freedom and democracy is hinted at by the curriculum vitae of the man appointed to lead the mission.
He is Lieutenant General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, former head of intelligence for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, the only serving national leader wanted by the International Criminal Court.
He will arrive on Sunday with a team of 20 people with a background in the military or in human rights, to be followed by a further 100 delegates in the next two weeks.
Human rights groups are continuing to investigate events near the village of Kfar Owaid in Syria's northern Idlib province, where more than 100 people were killed on Monday.
At first they were said to be army deserters, but they are now said to be unarmed civilians and activists attempting to escape the army's attempts to bring the province back under control. They were surrounded and gunned down until there were no survivors, according to reports.
Avaaz, a human rights group, said that it had verified the deaths of 6,237 people in the uprising, including protesters, members of the FSA and government forces. It said 69,000 people had been arrested, and 37,000 remained in detention.
Of those arrested, 617 had died while under torture, including 39 children.
The Syrian state news agency SANA reported that more than 2,000 members of the security forces have been killed since the protests began.(©Daily Telegraph, London)