Bashar al-Assad has become the latest Mideast Milosevic. Amnesty International released a report this week documenting "systematic persecution on a vast scale" by Bashar al-Assad's Syrian secret police and paramilitary forces against Syria's democracy movement. Amnesty's report portrays a gruesome catalogue of documented and independently corroborated atrocities committed in the name of Assad and his subordinates against the Syrian people by his regime. Almost 2,500 people have been killed by Assad's forces since the start of the uprising and untold thousands more have been tortured, imprisoned, or wounded.
None of this, however, accurately portrays the full extent of the atrocities Assad's henchmen are committing throughout Syria day in and day out.
Amnesty's report includes video smuggled out of Syria of 45 bodies of detainees who were tortured and dumped on roadsides. "The accounts of torture we have received are horrific. We believe the Syrian government to be systematically persecuting its own people on a vast scale," said Amnesty's Syrian researcher Neil Sammonds and a courageous Damascus-based human rights lawyer, Razan Zeitouneh.
Substantiating portions of Amnesty's detailed allegations, Adnan al-Bakkour, the Attorney General of the city of Hama, defiantly resigned in a video statement over the killing of over 70 detainees in his city in recent days.
Amnesty's report is just the latest in an alarming list of atrocities being documented by Syrian human rights organizations and international human rights monitors. Just last week, the UN Human Rights Council overwhelmingly adopted a resolution condemning Syria for " ...grave and systematic human-rights violations." The resolution censured Syria for every type of human rights crime, ranging from arbitrary executions, the torture of children, ill-treatment of innocent detainees -- you name it.
The Assad regime denies that it is responsible for any hair being harmed on any Syrian, robotically resorting to the absurd canard that reports of abuse are fabrications hatched by armed terrorist groups. The Assad regime will never perfect the Big Lie. Having had enough of their blather condoning the regime's conduct, the State Department blacklisted "shameless tool and regime mouthpiece" Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, a former ambassador to Washington, and Bouthaina Shaaban, a top political media adviser to Assad, whom I had the privilege to confront during a television debate a couple of years ago on Lebanese television. Bravo to State for its choice words leveled at Syria's version of Tariq Azziz.
So far, despite repeated media demands, the Syrian government has been unable to produce a shred of evidence that any such "armed terrorist group" exists or is responsible for the crimes committed.
Assad's use of murder, torture and abuse against unarmed, courageous Syrians is perilously close to remaining just another occasional media story since it is so pervasive, consistent and, well, "expected" from a regime that has defied every call from the international community to cease and desist. Moreover, unlike his more hapless Libyan counterpart who permitted global media access to Libya, Assad has sealed Syria off.
To his undeserving credit, Assad's ploy has limited media coverage of the popular revolt against his regime. Regrettably, most media outlets are still giving short shrift to the stories of human rights abuses inside Syria because they are unable to report from inside the prison-state.
Given the unyielding escalation of terror emanating from Syria in recent days, the fortitude and courage of the Syrian people warrants greater international coverage and a full-fledged effort to bring Assad and his cohorts to justice.
One way to help persecuted Syrians is for the United States government to play a more proactive role with Syrian opposition leaders. This would publicize and highlight these abuses, and galvanize greater international support to bring an indictment against Assad and his family before the International Criminal Court. Indeed, like Gaddafi, Assad has now earned a one-way ticket to The Hague.
However belatedly (and I have been quite vocal about her tardiness), Secretary of State Clinton has finally embraced a more aggressive stance against Syria in recent days, and is putting her considerable diplomatic skills to work to compel the European Union to ban the sale of Syrian oil to Europe -- Assad's monetary lifeline that is greatly helping to maintain the regime's killing fields throughout Syria. This may happen at an EU meeting in Poland this weekend.
But despite the mounting evidence of international war crimes, the United Nations Security Council has so far failed to come to the Syrian peoples' rescue. Ten days ago Britain and France circulated a draft resolution against Syria aimed at imposing a weapons embargo on Syria. Russia is holding the UN hostage, dragging its feet along with China to filibuster any concerted action against Syria in spite of the overwhelming evidence of human rights violations. Both are determined to prevent any concerted international action against Assad. For both countries it takes one to know one, after all.
American and international supporters of a free Syria need to do much more to encourage media outlets to report more regularly on developments inside Syria. Leaders of the Syrian opposition, meeting shortly in Istanbul, also deserve to have far more media focused on their efforts, to solicit regularly from them the smuggled reports they themselves can transmit to a greater international audience from secret sources inside Syria.
With the U.S. government and the EU more determined to turn the screws on Assad, the Syrian people deserve to know that their cries are being heard and that the world is watching and witnessing another sad chapter of a dynasty that has more blood on its hands now than virtually any other throughout the Arab world. Assad, after all, is truly a State Sponsor of Terror in every meaning of that phrase.