News / Middle East

UN: World Powers Responsible for Failing to Stop Syria War Crimes

U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) workers prepare aid parcels at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, south of Damascus in this picture made available on February 26, 2014. World powers have passed a landmark Security Council resolution demanding a
U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) workers prepare aid parcels at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, south of Damascus in this picture made available on February 26, 2014. World powers have passed a landmark Security Council resolution demanding a
Reuters
All sides in Syria's civil war are using shelling and siege tactics to punish civilians and big powers bear responsibility for allowing such war crimes to persist, U.N. human rights investigators said on Wednesday.
 
In their latest report documenting atrocities in Syria, they called again on the U.N. Security Council to refer grave violations of the rules of war to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution.
 
“The Security Council bears responsibility for allowing the warring parties to violate these rules with impunity,” the report by the U.N. commission of inquiry on Syria said.
 
“Such inaction has provided the space for the proliferation of actors in the Syrian Arab Republic, each pursuing its own agenda and contributing to the radicalization and escalation of violence.”
 
Divided world powers have supported both sides in Syria's three-year-old conflict and a diplomatic deadlock has exacerbated the bloodshed.
 
The independent investigators, led by Brazilian expert Paulo Pinheiro, said that fighters and their commanders may be held accountable for crimes, but also states which transfer weapons to Syria.
 
Syrian government forces under President Bashar al-Assad have besieged towns including the Old City of Homs, shelling relentlessly and depriving them of food as part of a “starvation until submission” campaign, the report said.
 
It said the Syrian air force had dropped barrel bombs on Aleppo with “shocking intensity,” killing hundreds of civilians and injuring many more.
 
Insurgents fighting to topple Assad, especially foreign Islamic fighters including the al-Qaeda affiliated ISIS, have stepped up attacks on civilians, taken hostages, executed prisoners and set off car bombs to spread terror, it said.
 
The 75-page report, covering July 15-Jan. 20, is the seventh by the United Nations since the inquiry was set up in September 2011, six months after the anti-Assad revolt began.
 
The investigators have not been allowed into Syria, but their latest findings were based on 563 interviews conducted by Skype or by telephone with victims and witnesses still in the country or in person with refugees in surrounding countries.
 
Four lists of suspects
 
All sides have violated the rules of war embodied in the Geneva Conventions, according to the team of two dozen who include former U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte.
 
It has now drawn up four confidential lists of suspects.
 
Despite some tactical gains by Syrian government forces backed by more foreign combat forces of Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi militia, the fighting has reached a stalemate, causing significant casualties and material losses, the report said.
 
“The government relied extensively on the superior firepower of its air force and artillery, while non-state armed groups increasingly resorted to methods of asymmetric warfare, such as suicide bombs and use of improved explosive devices.”
 
As part of a strategy aimed at weakening the insurgents and breaking the will of their popular base, government forces have besieged and bombarded civilian areas, it said.
 
“Partial sieges aimed at expelling armed groups turned into tight blockades that prevented the delivery of basic supplies, including food and medicine, as part of a 'starvation until submission' campaign.”
 
Rebels throughout Syria have “inflicted severe physical or mental pain or suffering on civilian populations in areas under their control”, including on prisoners, it said.
 
Referring to the northern area of Raqqa that is under control of an al Qaeda affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the report said: “The acts committed by non-state armed groups ... in areas under their control against the civilian population constitute torture and inhuman treatment as a war crime and, in the context of (Raqqa), as a crime against humanity.”
 
Rebels have encircled Nubl and Zahra, besieging 45,000 people in the two Shi'ite towns in Aleppo province, it said.
 
“The siege is imposed by groups affiliated to the Islamic Front, Jaish Al Mujahedeen, Jabhat Al-Nusra and the Syrian Revolutionary Front by checkpoints erected around the area and by cutting off their electrical and water supply lines.”
 
The war, which enters its fourth year next week, has become “deeply fragmented and localized”, with multiple front lines involving different parties with shifting priorities, according to the report.
 
Kurdish forces in northeastern provinces were fighting radical Islamic armed groups in a “distinct sub-conflict”.
 
Thousands of foreign fighters have joined the fighting, fuelling the sectarian dimension of the conflict that threatens to destabilize the wider region, the investigators said.
 
War crimes had been committed on both sides, including torture, massacres, rapes and recruitment of child soldiers.
 
“Government forces are conducting a sniper campaign in Bustan Al Qasr (Aleppo). On one day alone in October, doctors treated five men shot in the groin. The same month, six pregnant women were shot in the abdomen,” the report said.
 
On the rebel side, a 26-year-old man was detained on the ground of his sexual orientation in Oct. 2013. “He was beaten and hung by his arms from a ceiling by ISIS in Raqqa. On 31 October, a school headmistress was publicly lashed by ISIS in Raqqa for not wearing a hijab [Islamic head covering].”

You May Like

Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters, Cracks Down at Home

In suppressing protest news, China reportedly has arrested more than 20 people on the mainland who acted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters More

Competing Goals Could Frustrate Efforts to Fight Islamic State

As alliances shift and countries re-define themselves, analysts say long-standing goals of some key players in Middle East may soon compete with Western goals More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid