The United Nations has been warned -- Syrian citizens are dying by the thousands, with the death toll in Syria rising by at least 1,000 in the past 10 days -- and more losing their lives in the daily bloodbath that comes with each clash between loyalist troops and opposition forces.
The figures reflect the deaths of those killed by government troops, according to U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, who said more than 5,000 have died since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March. At the beginning of the month, the U.N. had estimated the death toll was 4,000.
At least 300 of the dead are children, Pillay told the U.N. Security Council in a report Tuesday. She called on the U.N. to refer Assad to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
A similar process was followed in the case of former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, although the strongman never reached the court, having later been executed by rebel forces as soon as he was captured.
At least 14,000 anti-government protesters and their family members have been jailed, Pillay reported, and many of those were tortured. Some 12,400 have fled the country.
Among the dead are unarmed civilians, defectors from the Syrian army, and regular army soldiers who were killed for refusing to obey orders to shoot protesters.
Syrian government troops opened fire on a car traveling near the village of Khattab in the central Hama province at dawn on Wednesday, killing all five passengers, human rights groups told the Associated Press. It was not clear why that particular car was targeted. Heavy gunfire was also reported in the village of Hirak in the southern province of Dara'a. At least 38 people were killed on Tuesday, mostly in the northwestern region of the country.
Government spokesmen have claimed that more than 1,100 Syrian Army troops have also died in the clashes.
"Independent, credible and corroborated accounts demonstrate that these abuses have taken place as part of a widespread and systematic attack on civilians," Pillay reported. Activists and various human rights organizations claim the figures are actually even higher.