UN Panel: Syrians Victims of Military Attacks

The head of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on Syria Paulo Pinheiro (file photo)
The head of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on Syria Paulo Pinheiro (file photo)
Margaret Besheer

The head of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on Syria says his investigators are finding that Syrians are increasingly victims of military attacks on towns and villages.  Earlier in the crisis, victims of the Syrian crackdown tended to be involved in anti-government protests.

The three-member panel is headed by Paulo Pinheiro, a Brazilian human rights expert.  He told reporters that in the last week his investigators in the region have conducted 70 interviews and found a shift in the type of violence that has claimed more than 8,000 Syrian lives in the last year.

“There is something different that I would like  to stress: it seems to our colleagues that less people interviewed were victims of the excessive use of force during the quelling of protests, while more and more people appear to be killed or injured in the context of military operations against entire villages," said Pinheiro.

He said such attacks appear to be motivated by the pursuit of armed groups or the decision to collectively punish the population of an entire village.  He said in some cases, people reported that the village was warned it would be shelled if wanted persons did not surrender.  Pinheiro stressed that this is a new development which they are investigating further.

The commissioners also expressed concern about growing numbers of refugees in Lebanon and Turkey. The U.N. refugee agency has registered about 15,000 Syrians in Lebanon and 16,000 in Turkey.  A similar number are believed to be in Jordan.

Commission member Karen AbuZayd said that previously, individuals and families were fleeing Syria, but now entire neighborhoods are doing so.

“Now because of what is happening with the battles and the whole cities being emptied, people are coming out as whole groups and in greater numbers as whole villages and so on," said AbuZayd.

The panel noted the increasing number of high-level defections in the Syrian military, including at least four brigadier generals, as an interesting development.  They also said they had testimony that during the visit of Arab League observers to Syria in January, some doctors were instructed to drug their patients so they would be unconscious during the monitors’ hospital visits.

The commission has not been granted access to Syria, but Pinheiro said this has not stopped the gathering of reliable information.  In addition to interviews with refugees and others with first-hand, verifiable information on the situation, Pinheiro said the commission has also utilized a lot of satellite information.

The commission was appointed last September and has produced two reports. The first said Syrian forces under government orders may have committed crimes against humanity in different parts of the country.

On Friday, the U.N. Human Rights Council extended the mandate of the commission of inquiry for another six months.  Friday’s vote in the 47-member Geneva-based Human Rights Council was 41 states in favor, two abstentions and three votes against - Russia, China and Cuba.  One delegation was absent.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: hamad part 3 of 3
March 25, 2012 11:07 PM
faint which implicated this turmoil . Human Right Watch can not watch except what Israel wants it to watch . The good thing here is all fake masks have fallen down rapidly . If the opposition got enough supporters, Basher would not remain in presidency more than Mubarak who has been the best ally of Israel and Paulo Pinheiro.

by: hamad part 2 of 3
March 25, 2012 11:07 PM
held them responsibilities too and given Bashar plea to continue his crackdown . Syria Paulo , Anna and Susan Rice have got the same mentality which turned UN as well as NATO to private company serves the interests of wars brokers. Collectively punish has been exerted against restricted Palestinians since ages , so why have not you opened you mouth to take about their rights ? There are so many claims in this article but media impact has become

by: hamad part 1 of 3
March 25, 2012 11:06 PM
I have just read that Israel intends to block UN mission to investigate settlements activity in the occupied territories . Who works for others here ? By they way, It blocked commentaries in that article too. We are dealing with bunch of extremists who have been armed with Nuke weapons and could blow up our galaxy in any second . UN should turned to Knesset instead of hiding under lying and empty slogans . Syria Paulo forgot that they have already armed the opposition which has

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs