January 20, 2012
Posted: 2049 GMT
Damascus, Syria (CNN) - Syria smoldered Friday as anti-government demonstrators poured into the streets and the Arab League mulled an extension of its monitoring mission.
Protesters focused their attention on political prisoners and demanded the release of detainees. At least 10 people were slain in clashes Friday, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an opposition activist group.
For more than 10 months, Syria has been in the throes of an anti-government public uprising and a brutal security crackdown against protesters. The United Nations last month estimated well over 5,000 deaths since mid-March. Opposition groups estimate more than 6,000 people have died.
The Arab League has called on President Bashar al-Assad's regime to stop violence against civilians, free political detainees, remove tanks and weapons from cities and allow outsiders, including the international news media, to travel freely around Syria.
The purpose of its month-long fact-finding mission was to see if the government was adhering to an agreement to end the violence. The mission was scheduled to end Thursday but the League was negotiating an extension.
A handful of Arab League members will meet Saturday, led by Qatar, before the full body meets Sunday in Cairo to discuss the monitors' final findings.
Human Rights Watch urged the Arab League to publicly release its final report about the group's monitoring mission.
"The Arab League should make its monitors' report public to address increasing concerns that its monitoring mission is being manipulated by the Syrian authorities," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said on Friday. "Only a transparent assessment of the monitoring mission can determine whether the monitors should stay in the country."
Human Rights Watch has questioned the mission's "lack of transparency and independence."
"The criteria for selecting the monitors have not been made available nor has any information about their monitoring experience. The mission has relied on the Syrian government for security and to transport monitors around the country, compromising the mission's ability to access victims and witnesses safely. The mission's interim report on January 8 has not been made public, and the Arab League has not shared information about the mission's methodology," the group said.
Opposition activists and human rights monitors say the Syrian government has not stopped its aggressive actions against protesters since the mission began December 26.
Human Rights Watch said it has "documented daily violations by security forces against protesters and steps by the Syrian government to interfere with the work of the mission."
Citing local activists, it says 506 civilians have been killed by security forces since the Arab League monitors started the mission. It said "attacks against security forces have also intensified in certain parts of the country."
The al-Assad government says it is fighting "armed terrorist groups," which it blames for the violence.
The opposition Syrian National Council sent a delegation to meet with Arab League officials about the report.
"The report must document the atrocities committed by the Syrian regime against civilians in all cities and towns," the group said in a statement. "Ongoing human rights violations include direct orders by the regime to kill civilians using snipers, and executions by firing squad, in public squares. The SNC delegation will stress that the report must contain clear language indicating genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed by the regime against unarmed civilians."
Thousands of people have been detained since mid-March. Activist groups on Friday issued statements about one man, Hossam Ahmed Naboulsy - detained in Baniyas several weeks ago.
A video purporting to show a badly beaten and dazed Naboulsy surfaced, and it has prompted stern reaction from activists. The man in the video has a bruised and swollen face
The LCC has urged his release. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, another activist group, says it is "extremely concerned" for his life.
Human Rights Watch is also urging the U.N. Security Council "to impose targeted sanctions to halt the ongoing killings."
"The Arab League should publicly recognize that Syria has not respected the League's plan and work with the Security Council to increase pressure on the authorities and effectively curtail the use of firepower," Whitson said.
The SNC delegation also said it plans to demand that the issue be referred to the Security Council "for a resolution to establish a safe zone and impose a no-fly zone in Syria. The resolution must also call for the establishment of an oversight body empowered to use force to prevent the Syrian regime from continuing to kill and torture its civilian population."
While Western powers have imposed sanctions on Syria during the government crackdown, opposition by Russia and China has kept the U.N. Security Council from following suit.
Syria said U.S. and EU sanctions on its oil sector have led to a $2 billion loss, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said, citing the country's oil minister. The government blames oil and gas pipeline sabotage on the terrorist groups.
CNN's Salma Abdelaziz and Joe Sterling contributed to this report
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