News / Middle East

UN Rights Inquiry Alleges Syrian War Crimes

Site of massive bomb allegedly dropped by pro-government war planes in eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor, Feb. 16, 2013
Site of massive bomb allegedly dropped by pro-government war planes in eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor, Feb. 16, 2013
Lisa Schlein
A United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Monday alleged possible crimes of war by both pro- and anti-government supporters in Syria.
 
In a 131-page report, the commission accuses both pro- and anti-government forces of becoming more violent and reckless. It says the Syrian war has become more sectarian and is attracting criminal elements and increased numbers of foreign fighters.
 
It alleges that government forces and anti-government armed groups are massacring civilians.  

It accuses the government of arbitrary arrests, murder, torture, and rape - all acts, which if proven, can constitute crimes against humanity.
 
Though they say the government side carries more blame, the investigators also allege that rebel groups have committed murder, torture, arbitrary arrests and hostage-taking, which also may constitute war crimes if proven.
 
The Syrian government and rebel groups did not comment on Monday's report.


Member of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria Carla del Ponte listens during a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, February 18, 2013.Member of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria Carla del Ponte listens during a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, February 18, 2013.
x
Member of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria Carla del Ponte listens during a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, February 18, 2013.
Member of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria Carla del Ponte listens during a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, February 18, 2013.
Continuing 'atrocities'
 
One of the U.N. commissioners, former war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte, said atrocities have gone on far too long in Syria.
 
Del Ponte said it is time for the U.N. Security Council to act to bring about justice. So far, deep splits in the council between Western members and China and Russia have blocked action.
 
"After two years, it is incredible that the Security Council does not take a decision," she said. "Justice must be imminent urgently because crimes are continuing, committed in Syria and the number of victims are increasing day to day. So, justice must be done."
 
The commission of inquiry was set up in 2011 by the U.N. Human Rights Council.
 
The four investigators were not allowed to enter Syria. They gathered information from testimony of nearly 450 people.

Children targeted
 
Del Ponte said some of the most shocking allegations involve children.
 
"The children are used, for example as messengers during the war and, of course, they are under high risk and many children were wounded," she said. "And, we have also some crimes committed against children - rape, sexual violence."

  • Vehicles burn after an explosion in central Damascus February 21, 2013. Syrian state media blamed what it said was a suicide bombing on "terrorists" battling President Bashar al-Assad. 
  • People walk near debris and damaged vehicles after an explosion in central Damascus February 21, 2013. Residents said that the big explosion shook the central Damascus district of al-Mazraa.
  • A Free Syrian Army member carries a weapon while walking down a debris-filled street in Aleppo's district of Salaheddine, February 19, 2013. 
  • Civilians run to take cover after a jet missile hit the al-Myassar neighborhood of Aleppo, February 20, 2013.
  • Syrian government forces deploy themselves in the streets of Aleppo, February 20, 2013.
  • Syrian government forces walk along a street in the al-Sabaa Bahrat district of Aleppo, February 20, 2012.
  • A boy gets his hair cut at a makeshift barber shop at the Azaz refugee camp along the Syrian-Turkish border, February 19, 2013.
  • A rocket is launched by Free Syrian Army fighters towards Nairab military airport and the international airport in Aleppo, which are controlled by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, February 19, 2013.
  • Players of the Homs-based Al-Wathba football react after a mortar fell as they were training at the Tishreen Sport City Stadium on the outskirts of Damascus, February 20, 2013.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters play football near Al Neirab airport in Aleppo, February 17, 2013.

The commission has a confidential list of high-level political and military individuals and units it suspects to be responsible for crimes.
 
It will submit the list to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights next month. A tribunal will conduct a formal investigation which may lead to indictments.

The decision to refer the conflict to the ICC lies with the U.N. Security Council, which is deeply divided between Western nations, and China and Russia, which have blocked action.

EU sanctions

On Monday, European Union governments extended for three months sanctions against Syria, but said they would amend an arms embargo to provide "non-lethal" support and technical assistance to help protect civilians. 
 
The decision was reached at an EU foreign minister meeting in Brussels, where Britain lobbied to ease the arms embargo so that rebels can gain access to military aid in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad. Most foreign ministers opposed the request, with Luxembourg's Jean Asselborn stating "there is no shortage of arms in Syria."

Meanwhile, the French news agency, citing the pro-Damascus Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, quoted Assad as telling the paper he is confident his military will defeat the rebels.

The published comments came as Syrian rebels reportedly captured a key army checkpoint on the main road to the airport in the northern city of Aleppo, the latest win in their battle to secure strategic airports in the area.

The United Nations estimates some 70,000 people have lost their lives since anti-government protests erupted in March 2011 and broadened into war.

VOA's Naomi Martig contributed to this report.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: The Hunter from: Cameroon
February 19, 2013 5:53 AM
Why now? Shocking the U.N is still talking of 'alleged war crimes' when we watch the atrocities on tv daily! It is not an allegation that Assad is massacring his people!

by: Anonymous
February 18, 2013 7:30 PM
Good stuff, go after Bashar, his crimes can not go unpunished. Anyone who houses Bashar or hides him, would be considered breaking the law. Maybe better the ICC gets a hold of Bashar, rather than the FSA.

by: Anonymous
February 18, 2013 6:12 PM
It's important now for the international community to ask the Syrian govt. organize and an investigate and judge the guilty. They should be given enough time to do the investigation properly. If this happens there will be more and more peaceful resolutions and reconciliations in the world. UNHRC should be convened to give the mandate, as it's been done in the case of Sri Lanka's alleged war-crimes and Genocide.

by: Simon
February 18, 2013 12:23 PM
And Zimbabwe, well that is another story which demonstrates just
how vulnerable ordinary people are with the UN "listening". mmm

by: Michael from: USA
February 18, 2013 10:02 AM
The judges must look at the display of evidence taken from the field. Against presumable crimes a property must sort, as ghastly as it sounds, 'regular' war deaths from outstanding war crimes killings. I propose that this task is impossible due to the humanitarian mindset already in place

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More