Showing the world was right to be skeptical about President Bashar al Assad’s reported acceptance of a peace plan to end the bloodbath in Syria, the United Nations human rights chief is now saying that authorities are targeting children in their gruesome campaign to crush rebel forces.
In an interview with the BBC, the UN’s Navi Pillay says, “They’ve gone for the children—for whatever purposes—in large numbers. Hundreds detained and tortured… it’s just horrendous.”
It’s not the first time children are reported to be a specific target of Syrian government authorities. But, as the BBC’s Fergal Keane argues, Pillay’s comments hold a special heavy weight:
Navi Pillay is one of the most experienced international war-crimes experts. Before taking up her UN role as high commissioner for human rights, she served as a judge on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the tribunal investigating the Rwandan genocide.
As a lawyer of more than 45 years experience Mrs Pillay has learned to choose her words carefully. That is why her forthright comments on President Bashar al-Assad will arouse interest.
Whether her comments prompt any further action by the international community to stop Assad’s bloody campaign, however, remains to be seen.