War crimes daily reality in Syria's civil war: UN
AFP PhotoUnited Nations investigators warned yesterday that war crimes and crimes against humanity are now occurring daily in war-torn Syria.
“War crimes and crimes against humanity have become a daily reality in Syria,” said the Commission of Inquiry on Syria in a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council. During the four-month period covered by the report, 17 suspected massacres took place in Syria, out of a total of 30 since the conflict began in March 2011, the investigators said.
“The documented violations are consistent and widespread, evidence of a concerted policy implemented by the leaders of Syria’s military and government,” they said in their fifth report on the 26-month-old war that has killed more than 80,000. Government forces and allied militia have committed murder, torture, rape and other inhumane acts, the report said.
“I am very surprised by the violence and the cruelty, the criminal acts and especially the acts of torture” in Syria, said Carla del Ponte, a former war crimes prosecutor and a member of the commission, also decrying the use of child soldiers by some opposition groups. According to the report, 86 child combatants have so far been killed in the conflict, nearly half of them in 2013.
For the past two weeks, Syrian government forces have laid siege to the border town of Qusair where agencies say hundreds of wounded and other civilians are trapped in dire conditions. Syrian rebels and allied foreign militants have murdered civilians as well as captured soldiers, often after “show trials,” the report said. “They continue to endanger the civilian population by positioning military objectives in civilian areas,” it added.
Investigators also said they had “reasonable grounds” to believe chemical weapons had been used by both sides. “Allegations have been received concerning the use of chemical weapons by both parties,” said the report, adding that “the majority concern their use by government forces.”
to believe chemical use “There are reasonable grounds to believe that limited quantities of toxic chemicals were used. It has not been possible, on the evidence available, to determine the precise chemical agents used, their delivery systems or the perpetrator,” Paulo Pinheiro, who chairs the U.N. commission of inquiry, said. President Bashar al-Assad’s government and its opponents have accused each other of using chemical weapons.
It was the first time the commission, which has been tasked with probing human rights violations in Syria, added the suspected use of chemical agents to its long list of war crimes committed in the conflict-torn country. Without providing details, the report, which covers the period January 15 to May 15 this year, lists four chemical attacks: on the Khan al-Asal neighborhood of Aleppo and Uteibah, near Damascus, both on March 19, on the Sheikh Maqsood district of Aleppo on April 13, and on the northwestern town of Saraqab on April 29.
The investigators also called on the international community to refrain from shipping arms to Syria. “It is an illusion that more weapons will tip the balance between the two parties,” Pinheiro said.
Damascus has so far barred the commission from the country, and the investigators have instead based their conclusions on more than 1,600 interviews with refugees and exiles, as well as by Skype and telephone with victims.
Compiled from AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.