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Arab League Observer Leaves Syria Mission, Calls It “Farce”

Arab League officials planned to send more observers to Syria to monitor protests there, but they abruptly delayed that today. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that one observer left the mission after calling it a “farce.”

A former Arab League observer in Syria has decried the organisation’s monitoring mission to the country as a “farce”, as the UN Security Council heard security forces had stepped up the killing of protesters after the observers’ arrival.

Anwar Malek, an Algerian member of the monitoring team, told Al Jazeera he resigned because of what he saw, and said that the mission was falling apart.

“What I saw was a humanitarian disaster. The regime is not just committing one war crime, but a series of crimes against its people,” he said.

“The snipers are everywhere shooting at civilians. People are being kidnapped. Prisoners are being tortured and none were released.”

Malek added that some members of the Arab League mission “preferred to maintain good relations with the regime,” denying the clear evidence of war crimes and brutality in front of their faces. Considering that one of the leaders of the mission is a general who presided over genocide in Darfur, this is not at all surprising.

It’s unclear whether Malek’s departure will increase outside pressure on Syria. Certainly the regime doesn’t find itself in a difficult spot, as President Bashar al-Assad just gave a defiant speech, his first in six months, denying any repression and vowing to fight agitators in their midst.

The death of a French journalist at the hands of the Syrian regime, however, may have more of an impact.

A major Syrian opposition group said the killing of a French journalist illustrates the efforts of the Bashar al-Assad regime to intimidate media and called for an independent probe into the death.

“The killing is indicative of the transition of the Syrian regime from preventing press from freely working and covering the events in Syria to killing journalists and media personnel, in an attempt to silence neutral and independent media sources,” the Syrian National Council said Thursday.

France 2 TV journalist Gilles Jacquier, the first Western journalist to die in the 10-month-old uprising in Syria, was killed when a mortar shell struck the pro-government rally he was attending as part of a government-authorized tour of Homs, his network said. Syria had previously banned international journalists from entering the country, but lately allowed reporters to work in the country.

“The incidents of attacking journalists coincide with Assad’s forces and shabiha attacking and injuring some of the members of the delegation of Arab monitors, and seeking to threaten them in order to force them to leave Syria without allowing the public to see the results of their investigation that condemns the Syrian regime and exposes its crimes,” the SNC said. The shabiha are the pro-government militias that opposition activists call “thugs.”

Meanwhile, Syrians keep dying every day. The UN estimates over four hundred deaths since the beginning of the Arab League observer mission, and over 5,000 overall since the beginning of the uprising. Qatar’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, said yesterday “I could not see up until now a successful mission, frankly speaking.” Me neither.

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David Dayen

David Dayen