Wednesday, August 15, 2012

UN Finds Both Sides Guilty of War Crimes in Syrian Conflict

Not surprisingly, the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry (CoI) in Syria has determined that both the Syrian Government and opposition forces have perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity during the ongoing conflict in Syria.

The CoI on Syria issued its report under a mandate from the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council. According to a UN press release, "the report states that war crimes, including murder, extrajudicial killings and torture, and gross violations of international human rights, including unlawful killing, attacks against civilians and acts of sexual violence, have been committed in line with State policy, with indications of the involvement at the highest levels of the Government, as well as security and armed forces."

The report further "notes that more “brutal tactics” and new military capabilities have been employed in recent months by both sides to the conflict. It updates earlier findings on the events that took place in the town of Houla on 25 May, concluding that Government forces and Shabiha fighters (the government-controlled militia) were responsible for the killings there of more than 100 civilians – nearly half of whom were children.

While the report states that opposition forces also committed war crimes, it concludes that their violations and abuses were not of the same gravity, frequency and scale as those committed by Government forces and the Shabiha.

The report also "reiterates the need for international consensus to end the violence and pave the way for a political transition process that reflects the aspirations of all segments of Syrian society."

In a news release issued by Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Commission emphasized that its lack of access inside Syria significantly hindered its ability to carry out its work. Most of its information is derived from firsthand accounts of the situation on the ground from people who left the country.

The CoI has conducted over 1,000 interviews since February. Its full report is scheduled to be presented at the 21st session of the Human Rights Council on 17 September.

(cgb) (adapted from a UN press release)

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