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Ex-Arab League monitor labels Syria mission ‘a farce’

A former member of the Arab League’s observer mission to Syria has called it a “farce” and described the situation there as a humanitarian disaster, BBC reports.

Anwar Malek told al-Jazeera TV that he had resigned because of what he had witnessed in Syria, including a series of war crimes.

He said the government had “fabricated” most of what the monitors had seen to stop the Arab League taking action.

The monitors are tasked with verifying the implementation of a peace plan.

On Tuesday, the United Nations Security Council was told that an estimated 400 people had been killed in Syria since the Arab League mission arrived in late December – an average of almost 40 deaths a day.

The US permanent representative to the UN, Susan Rice, said the figure showed Syria’s government had accelerated its killing of demonstrators, rather than using the opportunity to end the violence.

The UN says more than 5,000 people have been killed by Syrian security forces since the uprising began in March. The government says 2,000 security personnel have died combating “armed gangs and terrorists”.

Last week, the secretary general of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi, said the mission needed more time to complete its work.

But he said the Syrian military had withdrawn heavy weapons from towns cities in accordance with the peace plan.

‘Fallen apart’

In an interview with al-Jazeera broadcast on Tuesday evening, Mr Malek said that by allowing in Arab League observers the Syrian government had “gained a lot of time to help it implement its plan” to end the unrest.

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

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

“Some on our team preferred to maintain good relations with the regime and denied that there were snipers,” he added.

Mr Malek said he had resigned because what he had seen, and asserted that the observer mission had fallen apart.

“The mission was a farce and the observers have been fooled,” he added. “The regime orchestrated it and fabricated most of what we saw to stop the Arab League from taking action against the regime.”

He said that security forces had not withdrawn their tanks from the streets – as mandated by the Arab League peace initiative – but had just hidden them and then brought them back out after the observers had left.

Mr Malek also said imprisoned protesters who were shown by state television being freed last month as part of an amnesty were actually people who had been detained at random four or five days earlier.

Mr Malek’s name was on a list of the observers who were sent to Syria in late December, according to the Associated Press. He was identified as a Tunisian who works for the Paris-based Arab Committee for Human Rights (ACHR), although al-Jazeera said he was an Algerian.

On Tuesday, two Kuwait members of the observer mission were injured when their convoy was attacked by unknown demonstrators.

“Failing to provide adequate protection in Lattakia and other areas where the mission is deployed is considered a serious violation by the government of its commitments,” the Arab League said in a statement.

Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, stressed that his country “would continue to bear its responsibility to secure and protect those monitors”.

Mr Malek also criticised the head of the mission, Sudanese Gen Mohammed al-Dabi, who he said had “wanted to steer a middle course in order not to anger the [Syrian] authorities or any other side”.

‘Iron fist’

President Assad had earlier criticised the Arab League in a rare televised speech in which he said the organisation had failed over the last six decades to bring about change.

“Regional and international sides have tried to destabilise the country,” he said.

“Our priority now is to regain the security in which we basked in for decades, and this can only be achieved by hitting the terrorists with an iron fist.

“We will not be lenient with those who work with outsiders against the country.”

The Syrian National Council, an opposition umbrella group, described the president’s speech as an incitement to violence, and said he was “backing away from his own pledge to the Arab League plan”.

In Washington, state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: “Assad manages to blame a foreign conspiracy that is so vast with regard to the situation in Syria that it now includes the Arab League, most of the Syrian opposition, the entire international community.”

“He throws responsibility on everybody but back on himself and with regard to his own responsibility for the violence in Syria.”

Mr Assad’s speech came as activists said security forces killed at least 35 people, including 17 in the eastern city of Deir al-Zour.

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