Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered on 2nd July 2012.

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Photo of Karen Lumley Karen Lumley Conservative, Redditch

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the extent of targeting of women and vulnerable groups in the conflict in Syria; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

There have been disturbing reports, including from the UN Human Rights Council-mandated Commission of Inquiry (COI), that many men, women and children have been subjected to rape, sexual assault and other degrading treatment at the hands of the Syrian security forces and Shabbiha. It is difficult to corroborate these reports, in part due to the social stigma that victims would endure if they came forward. However, the COI assess that fear of rape and sexual assault has restricted the freedom of movement of women and young girls, and many of the women interviewed by the COI had fled to neighbouring countries because of this fear. The COI in their report of 26 June 2012, also found that the victims of the atrocity in al Houla were predominantly women and children.

We call on the Syrian regime to immediately cease the widespread human rights violations committed by Government and paramilitary forces. These include arbitrary arrest and detention, violations of children's rights and use of sexual violence. We are also concerned by increased accounts of human rights abuses being committed by the armed opposition. These are unacceptable and we call on them to stop.

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