UNITED NATIONS - Syria's ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Jaafari has rejected the world body's estimate of 5,000 deaths in anti-government protests, saying the toll wasn't believable.
Ambassador Jaafari said the estimate was "incredible," responding to a briefing by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who told the Security Council Monday the situation in Syria had become "intolerable."
He said Pillay had “allowed herself to be misused in misleading the public opinion by providing information based on allegations collected from 233 defectors.”
“How could defectors give positive testimonies on the Syrian government? Of course they will give negative testimonies against the Syrian government,” Jaafari said.
Jaafari had accused the US and the EU of “waging a media, political and diplomatic war against Syria" and “encouraging armed groups to engage in violence” after the UN Human Rights Council approved a censure resolution last month.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Tuesday accused opponents of President Bashar Assad's regime of fomenting a humanitarian crisis to justify foreign military intervention.
"It seems to me that, beyond any doubt, the goal is to provoke a humanitarian catastrophe and get an excuse to demand foreign intervention in this conflict," he said during a news conference.
He also said Syria should accept Arab League proposals for ending the violence and allow foreign observers into the country.
Pillay, the UN human rights chief, said the Syrian population "continues to live in fear of further violent repression."
She said, "the nature and scale of abuses" indicated Syrian forces likely committed "crimes against humanity." Citing reliable sources, she said more than 300 of the dead have been children "killed by state forces."
Pillay said “many voices are warning that a major assault” on Homs – already the scene of frequent clashes between security forces and protesters this year – is about to begin, with a military build-up reported.
“I am not in a position to confirm those reports, but the prospect of such an attack is extremely alarming,” she said.
Ms. Pillay said the overall death toll in the Syrian clashes “probably exceeds 5,000,” based on what she said were credible reports from a series of sources. The toll includes at least 300 children.
“This number includes civilians, as well as defecting soldiers and those executed for refusing to shoot civilians,” but does not include serving members of the military, security forces or allied armed groups. Hundreds of people from that category are also thought to have been killed.
“I am appalled by the constant stream of grave violations that have taken place since the first protests in Syria in March. I am concerned that this continued ruthless repression and deliberate stirring of sectarian tensions, especially in Homs, may soon plunge Syria into civil war.”
The High Commissioner said the Syrian Government “has manifestly ignored the pleas and condemnations of the international community at all levels.”
Speaking to reporters after the Council briefing, she reiterated her earlier calls for the situation inside Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC), saying the “widespread and systematic nature” of killings, detentions and acts of torture constituted crimes against humanity.
She also noted the “huge numbers” of people kept in detention centres across Syria.
The uprising in Syria is part of a broader popular protest movement that has engulfed North Africa and the Middle East this year and led to the toppling of long-term regimes in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen.
France’s UN envoy said the council was “morally responsible” for the daily deaths by staying silent.
Amid the diplomatic wrangling, the death toll continued to mount on Tuesday, when at least 21 civilians were killed, according to activists. “Seven security force members were killed in an ambush by deserters on a convoy patrolling the Idlib-Bab al-Hawa road in response to the martyrdom of 11 civilians this morning,” the Observatory said.