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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    Diplomats Hope to Revive Cradle of Civilization After Defeat of IS

    Diplomats from around globe gather at US State Department, discuss how to rebuild minority communities shattered by Islamic State group

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100% Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100% Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora