Thursday 16 February 2012

Angelina Jolie: Time to act on Syria atrocities

Angelina Jolie in Sarajevo (AP photo by Amel Emric)

Angelina Jolie says her film about the Bosnian war should act as a wake-up call for the international community to act in time to prevent atrocities like those now happening in Syria.
She was speaking in Sarajevo on the eve of today’s UN General Assembly vote on a draft resolution that “Strongly condemns the continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities, such as the use of force against civilians, arbitrary executions, the killing and persecution of protestors, human rights defenders and journalists, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, interference with access to medical treatment, torture, sexual violence and ill-treatment, including against children.”
Jolie and her partner Brad Pitt are in Sarajevo to attend the premiere of her directorial debut film In The Land Of Blood And Honey, which was screened in a sports hall before an audience of 5,000 people, ABC News reports.
Greeted with a standing ovation, Jolie broke into tears when she got on the stage after the screening.
"To see you receiving it so well means the world to me. I feel so deep for all of you in this country," she said.
Earlier, Jolie told the media she was "satisfied" with the film -- a story of a Muslim woman and a Serb man who have a fling before Bosnia's 1992-1995 war, only to meet again when the woman is a prisoner in a unit of the Bosnian Serb army commanded by her former lover.
"I feel very strongly about it (the film) and I believe that its core issue -- which is the need for intervention and need for the world to pay attention to atrocities when they are happening -- is very, very timely and especially with things that are happening in Syria today," Jolie said.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the UN General Assembly on Monday that "the longer the international community fails to take action (on Syria), the more the civilian population will suffer from countless atrocities committed against them.”
Jolie said it "is very important that this film is out at this time."
"If this film points the finger at anybody it is the international community, so I hope it remains a wake-up call for them," she said.
Bosnia's war between its Croats, Muslims and Serbs claimed 100,000 lives.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in turn urged all UN Member States on Wednesday to call on the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad to immediately put an end to all human rights violations and to demand accountability for the crimes committed during the 11-month unrest.
In identical letters addressed to all permanent representatives accredited to the UN, the two rights groups urged the General Assembly to “strongly affirm that the vast majority of states have not abandoned the people of Syria, and is ready to act to bring an end to all human rights violations, and to ensure that those responsible for crimes under international law are brought to justice."
 The Assad regime says a draft constitution will make Syria a beacon of democracy in the Middle East if approved in a referendum hastily set for February 26.
The White House on Wednesday dismissed as "quite laughable" Syria's call for the referendum.
"It's actually quite laughable, it makes a mockery of the Syrian revolution," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Wisconsin state.
"Promises of reforms have usually been followed by an increase in brutality and have never been delivered upon by this regime since the beginning of the peaceful demonstrations in Syria," he remarked.
He said Washington is working "in a very focused way" with an array of international allies and partners to add to the pressure on Assad with a view to helping bring about a peaceful transition in Syria.
The date set for the referendum is just two days after a planned meeting in Tunis of the "Friends of Syria" grouping, which will be looking to mobilize for that aim.
“We hope that we’ll have a consensus and a unified message in favor of political change” in Syria, Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem told reporters in Lisbon. “We need to send a strong message to the Syrian regime that they have to stop the open killing of innocent and civilian people,” he added.
Lebanese political analyst Rosanna Boumounsef, writing for the Beirut daily Annahar, deems the February 26 referendum date to have been cunningly calculated to take the wind out of the Assembly vote and “Friends of Syria” sails.
Tariq Alhomayed, chief editor of the Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat, implores Arab and Western “Friends of Syria” to stop pointing the finger at Russia and China and start arming the Syrian opposition “today, not tomorrow.”