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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid