Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed horror yesterday at the alleged torture and murder of a 13-year-old Syrian boy by Syrian security forces. She denounced Bashar al-Assad's pledges of reform as fraudulent and said the regime has experienced a "total collapse" of political and moral legitimacy.
The boy, Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, was reportedly arrested at a protest near the southern city of Daraa on April 29. His body--reportedly mutilated, castrated, face covered with purple bruises--was returned to his family on May 21. A YouTube video of the battered corpse of the boy has been circulated on the Internet after being briefly removed; the horrific images have become a new rallying cry for anti-government protesters in Syria.
The murder "symbolizes for many Syrians … the total collapse of any effort by the Syrian government to work with and listen to their own people," Clinton raged at a news conference with the Colombian foreign minister Tuesday.
Assad "has not called an end to the violence against his own people, and he has not engaged seriously in any kind of reform efforts," she continued. "I can only hope that this child did not die in vain but that the Syrian Government will end the brutality and begin a transition to real democracy."
Syrian officials for their part denied the boy was tortured, and said his death was due to bullet wounds, Reuters reported.
On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch issued a report accusing Syrian security forces of committing crimes against humanity. The report, based on interviews with more than 50 witnesses, estimates that at least 880 anti-government protesters have been killed in Syria since protests erupted in the country in March, almost 500 in the southern city of Daraa alone.
"For more than two months now Syrian security forces have been killing and torturing their own people with complete impunity," Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch's Middle East director, told the Guardian. "They need to stop--and if they don't, it is the Security Council's responsibility to make sure that the people responsible face justice."
U.S. and European efforts to move a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syrian human rights abuses have reportedly been blocked to date by Russia and China.
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