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Hague: No impunity for Syria abuse

There must be no impunity for those committing human rights abuses in Syria, Foreign Secretary William Hague has said as he announced Britain will be stepping up its support for those documenting the crimes of the Assad regime against its own civilians.

The UK will train and equip an additional 20 Syrian human rights activists to join 47 who were trained earlier this year and have been gathering evidence for the United Nations since April, said Mr Hague.

The announcement came during a visit to the Bashabsheh refugee camp in Jordan, near the border with Syria, where he met some of the thousands of people who have fled their homes after civilian areas came under assault from military forces loyal to president Bashar Assad.

He heard first-hand accounts of human rights abuses taking place in the Middle Eastern country.

Speaking after his visit, Mr Hague said the 50-year sentence handed to former Liberian president Charles Taylor and the 14-year term given to Congolese war criminal Thomas Lubanga should act as warnings to those committing atrocities on behalf of the Assad regime.

"Today I have seen first-hand the terrible price being paid by the Syrian people and heard harrowing accounts of how they have suffered. It is more clear than ever that we must work to ensure that there is no impunity for those committing violations and abuses in Syria," said Mr Hague.

"They must understand that their actions have consequences, that acting on behalf of the regime does not absolve them of responsibility, and that we are committed to doing all that we can to hold them to account. As the convictions of Charles Taylor and Thomas Lubanga show, justice has a long memory and long reach.

"I have therefore announced that the UK will train a further 20 human rights activists to interview victims and record what is happening on the ground, so that the evidence can be used in future trials.

"I pay tribute to the commitment and dedication of those undertaking this vital work, which often places them at great personal risk."

The human rights activists trained by the UK are collecting evidence of abuses to pass to the UN Human Rights Council's commission of inquiry and were among the first to arrive at the scene of the Houla massacre which is believed to have claimed 108 lives in May.

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