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UN Commission May Name Alleged War Criminals in Syria

  • Margaret Besheer

Children play inside the wreckage of a burnt vehicle at al-Myassar neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 16, 2015.

Children play inside the wreckage of a burnt vehicle at al-Myassar neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 16, 2015.

A U.N. Commission on rights violations in Syria says it is considering publishing some of the names of suspected perpetrators of war crimes in that country’s civil war. The Commission of Inquiry is also recommending the establishment of a special criminal court for Syria.

The four-person Commission of Inquiry had an informal closed-door meeting with Security Council members on Friday. Lead commissioner Paulo Pinheiro said afterward that in a bid to end impunity in Syria, the panel will decide by mid-March whether to publish some of the names.

“What we shared with the Security Council is in what conditions the release of these names can be of some use, because just to release names without any follow-up, we don’t think it is very constructive," said Pinheiro.

The commission has previously compiled four confidential lists of alleged perpetrators. Commissioner Vitit Muntarbhorn said they are working on a fifth list which will consolidate some of the names. He said the lists have been deposited in the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights’ safe in Geneva.

In its current report, the commission says previous lists included commanders of army and security units, heads of detention facilities and heads of non-state armed groups and radical groups.

The commission has repeatedly urged the U.N. Security Council to refer the situation in Syria, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and millions displaced, to the International Criminal Court at The Hague. But divisions among the council’s five permanent members have prevented that happening.

In its latest report, the commission recommends creating an Ad Hoc Tribunal - a kind of special criminal court -- to try alleged violators. But that would still require Security Council approval. Pinheiro said the commission also urges countries to prosecute citizens who commit crimes in Syria when they return home under national laws.

“We must ask for what is right for victims and the people of Syria. We are trying to convince the international community to consider all options for accountability and not to ignore the victims of this war," he said.

In this report, the three-year-old the panel chronicles the escalation of violence in Syria, including crimes against children by all parties, but in particular by Islamic State fighters. The report details the arrests, torture and execution of children, as well as the terrorist group’s use of children as suicide bombers and executioners.

The report also details atrocities committed by the Syrian government, including indiscriminate attacks and barrel bombings of civilians, as well as sexual violence against detainees. Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari dismissed the report, saying it is politically motivated and intended to demonize the government’s image.

Syrian National Council U.N. representative, Najib Ghadbian, said his group supports the idea of naming perpetrators and he also urged that the European Union receive the list of names so that it can update its sanctions.

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