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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact 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.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs