Ex-Arab League monitor slams Syria mission

An Arab League observer arrives at a Greek Orthodox church in Damascus on January 9, 2012.

Story highlights

  • An Arab League official said Malek had health issues during his stint
  • Malek said he saw 'shameful scenes' in Homs
  • Prisoners were in 'deplorable' states, Malek said

A former member of the Arab League monitoring team in Syria said he resigned from the mission because it is "providing the regime cover for more killing" and "shameful" brutality.

"I quit because I found myself serving the regime and not part of an independent monitoring body," Anwar Malek, an Algerian, told Al-Jazeera in an interview Wednesday. His remarks were translated by CNN. "I am unable to stop the killing."

The Arab League embarked on a fact-finding mission in Syria in December, part of an initiative to end the bloody 10-month-long crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad's government against peaceful protesters.

The League wants the government 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 the mission is to see how the government is adhering to the plan.

The Arab League confirmed to CNN that Malek was part of the observer team.

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Mahmoud Nasser, an Arab League official in Cairo, told CNN that Malek had been sick during his stint and attended only a limited number of field visits.

He "had requested to fly to Paris for medical treatment during the mission. He has excused himself from the mission," Nasser said.

Malek's comments reflect the position of opposition activists, who regularly report government brutality and document casualties.

"It's practicing the same activities more blatantly," Malek said of the Syrian government.

"It's even killing its supporters to convince the Arab monitors that the regime is just doing their job to provide security and to gain sympathy. I felt like I myself would become a government thug, that's why I've quit."

Asked what he witnessed and what led to his resignation, Malek described grisly scenes in Homs, the restive city that has been an epicenter of anti-Assad sentiment.

"Most importantly, the human feeling that I lived over 15 days in Homs; I was in Baba Amr, Khalidya, Bab Sbaa, Sultaniya. I've been to all these areas, I've seen shameful scenes, burnt bodies that had undergone torture, skinned bodies, children murdered, and every now and then we would see someone shot by a sniper. I've seen all of that with my own eyes. I just cannot give up my humanity in the face of that or pretend to be independent or neutral when faced with it," he added.

Malek said he viewed detention facilities and "found people in a definitely deplorable and tragic state."

"People are undergoing systematic torture and starvation, where they are only given one snack a day, although those who underwent severe conditions were secretly transported to other areas, such as military zones or facilities that we know nothing about."

He also claimed that there were "soldiers and maybe intelligence officers that were presented to us as being prisoners."

Asked how he would know that, Malek said he has "some experience with prisons."

"When someone lives in such a place, his odor would be similar to that of the jail cell. Some of those people smelled like women's perfume. Where did that come from?"

Malek was also asked about remarks from the head of the monitors, who had said the situation isn't as bad as Malek said it is. Sudanese Lt. Gen. Mohamed Ahmed Mustapha al-Dabi is heading the observation mission.

"I believe that the head of the monitors wants to hold the stick from the middle, in order not to upset the authority or any other party. He picks his words so not to upset anybody. He always discourages us from speaking to the media so as not to say something that would upset a certain party and hence hinder our work. But the situation is tragic and Baba Amr and all other areas in Homs that I've been to for a while can only be described as an absolute disaster zone. Houses are destroyed after being bombarded by heavy weapons, all signs show that heavy weapons are still there," Malek said.