Human rights groups yesterday protested outside the Russian representative office in Taipei, condemning what they said was the Moscow-sponsored violence in Syria, while urging the Russian government to suspend arms sales to the Syrian government.
Since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad broke out in March last year, more than 14,000 people have reportedly been killed. Many were civilians who died from government artillery and tank shellings, or were shot at close range. Despite the escalation of violence, Moscow continues to sell weapons to its ally in Damascus.
Led by Amnesty International Taiwan, several human rights groups, including the Taiwan Labor Front, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, the Garden of Hope Foundation and the Awakening Foundation, gathered in front of the Aurora Building, where the Representative Office in Taipei for the Moscow-Taipei Coordination Commission on Economic and Cultural Cooperation — the de facto Russian embassy — is located, and called attention to the bloodshed in Syria.
The activists focused on the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, which is scheduled for next month in New York and expected to come up with an internationally agreed regulation on the global trade in conventional weapons.
According to Amnesty International Taiwan director Yang Tsung-Li (楊宗澧), it is estimated that one person dies from armed violence every minute and that about 26 million people become refugees because of armed conflicts each year.
The world’s largest arms exporters include Russia, China, the US and the UK.
“Even though Taiwan is not a member state of United Nations, Taiwanese should not stay aloof from world affairs. These issues are crucial to us, especially considering the situation between Taiwan and China,” Yang said.
Yesterday was the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture and Amnesty International offices worldwide have staged similar events to raise awareness of what has happened in Syria, Yang said.
In Taipei, the protesters shouted the slogans “Stop killing” and “Stop arms sales” in front of the Russian representative office. A dozen activists stayed after the protest and handed out copies of petitions that can be signed and mailed to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to passersby during lunchtime.
The rights groups originally attempted to submit a letter demanding an immediate suspension of arms transfers to Syria, but the Russian office refused to accept it.