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

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    South Korea Says North Korea Moving Closer to Rocket Launch

    In phone call, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree that Pyongyang's move would be 'provocative'

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.