News / Middle East

    UN Commission Says Abuses Widespread in Syria

    Paulo Pinheiro, chairperson of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria talks to media during a news conference in Geneva, Sept. 16, 2013.
    Paulo Pinheiro, chairperson of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria talks to media during a news conference in Geneva, Sept. 16, 2013.
    Lisa Schlein
    The Commission of Inquiry on Syria calls the use of chemical weapons a war crime and says their alleged use is triggering a new urgency to bring an end to Syria’s 30-month-long civil war. The Commission has just submitted its latest findings of widespread violations in Syria to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

    The Commission of Inquiry says it hopes the U.S.-Russian agreement will result in Syria joining the Chemical Weapons Convention in mid-October, and will lead to a broader political resolution to the war.

    In the meantime, commissioners say they are continuing to investigate 14 alleged chemical weapons attacks - four in March and April of this year - that may have occurred since the conflict broke out in March 2011.  They acknowledge their investigations are limited because the government will not grant them access to the country.

    Chemical weapons

    UN Report on Ghouta Attack

    Conclusions
    • Chemical weapons were used on a relatively large scale
    • Environmental, chemical and medical evidence provides clear evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing sarin were used

    Evidence
    • Impacted and exploded surface-to-surface rockets were found to contain sarin
    • Close to rocket impact sites, the environment was found to contain sarin
    • Patients/survivors were diagnosed as intoxicated by an organophosphorous compound
    • Blood and urine samples from those patients were positive for sarin and sarin signatures

    Source: UN
    The commission says it recognizes the seriousness of the August 21 chemical attack in a Damascus suburb, which the United States says killed more than 1,400 people. Commission chairman Paulo Pinheiro noted that the vast majority of casualties, though, are the result of the unlawful use of conventional weapons.

    Pinheiro told the U.N. Human Rights Council some of the worst atrocities were committed by both government and rebel forces. He accused government forces of indiscriminate shelling and bombardment. He said extremist rebel groups use methods of warfare to spread terror among the civilian population.

    Pinheiro said there is evidence the government continues to drop cluster munitions on civilian areas. He said a government fighter jet dropped an incendiary bomb on a school near Aleppo last month, killing eight students and wounding 50 others.

    “Many are not expected to survive. There is no evidence of any opposition or rebel fighters or lawful targets near the school... children make up a large proportion of civilian casualties. They have been arbitrarily arrested and tortured. Children have been unlawfully detained in cells with adult detainees," he said. "The government should take steps to release children from detention or to transfer them to a juvenile justice system consistent with both fair trial and children’s rights.”

    Hospitals attacked

    The commission accuses the government of deliberately attacking medical facilities and of denying treatment to the sick and wounded from opposition-controlled areas, but it says some opposition groups also have attacked medical personnel and hospitals.

    Syrian Ambassador Faysal Khabbas Hamoui said the commission is exaggerating and relying on unverified reports. He said his government has sent more than 250 communications and documents to the commission, which it has ignored.

    "It is deplorable for the commission to claim in its conclusions that the government is responsible for what it calls a number of massacres, and yet at the same time to say that the evidence and the circumstances around those massacres is not enough to determine the responsibility of the perpetrators," Hamoui said.

    Pinheiro said the commission does not have the ability to refer the government of Bashar al-Assad to the International Criminal Court. He said it is up to the U.N. Security Council to hold violators accountable for their actions.

    • This citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network shows anti-Syrian regime protesters hold a poster depicting U.S. President Barack Obama during a demonstration in Kafr Nabil, Idlib province, Sept. 20, 2013.
    • Children sit along a damaged street filled with debris in the besieged area of Homs, Sept. 19, 2013.
    • Debris is seen on the ground after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the al-Myassar neighborhood of Aleppo, Sept. 19, 2013.
    • An injured man walks along a street after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the al-Myassar neighborhood of Aleppo, Sept. 19, 2013.
    • This citizen journalism image provided by The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad shows a Syrian military tank on fire during clashes with Free Syrian army fighters in Joubar, a suburb of Damascus, Sept. 18, 2013.
    • A member of the Shohadaa Badr Brigade, which operates under the Free Syrian Army, stands in shooting position behind sandbags in Ashrafieh, Aleppo, September 17, 2013.
    • Free Syrian Army fighters walk through rubble inside the old city of Aleppo, Sept. 16, 2013.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter carries his weapon as he stands on rubble of damaged buildings in al-Aseela neighborhood near Aleppo's historic citadel, Sept. 13, 2013.
    • In this citizen journalism image provided by the United media office of Arbeen, a Syrian protester chants slogans during a demonstration in Arbeen, a suburb of Damascus, Sept. 13, 2013.

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora