News / Middle East

    UN: Syrian Government, Rebels Guilty of Atrocities

    A new U.N. report accuses both the Syrian government and opposition forces, of war crimes.
    A new U.N. report accuses both the Syrian government and opposition forces, of war crimes.
    Lisa Schlein
    A United Nations commission of inquiry says it has evidence the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and one rebel group have committed at least eight massacres over the past 18 months. 

    The commission, which released its latest report on the human rights situation in Syria on Wednesday, says it is investigating nine more suspected mass killings since March. 

    The U.N. investigators accuse both the Syrian government and opposition forces, including Islamist foreign fighters, of war crimes. But they note it is the government that commits the vast majority of killings and other abuse.

    Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director for the New York-based group Human Rights Watch, calls the U.N. report powerful and very disturbing to read.

    “It shows that the violations being committed in Syria continue at the same intensity, if not greater intensity as before," said Bouckaert. "The levels of massacres, summary executions, indiscriminate bombings of towns, as well as a significant increase in terms of abuses being committed by opposition forces, particularly some of the more extreme elements, such as the jihadi groups of (al-Qaida's) Islamic State of Iraq (and the Levant).”   

    This latest report covers the commission’s work from 2011 to mid-July, and will be submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council next Monday. It says relentless shelling by government forces has killed thousands of civilians and displaced the populations of entire towns. The report describes Syria as a battlefield where massacres are perpetrated with impunity. 

    An untold number of men, children and women have disappeared, many are killed in detention and survivors live with the physical and mental scars of torture, the report finds. It also says hospitals and schools have been bombarded.

    The investigators note a sharp rise in hostage taking and kidnappings by both pro-government and opposition forces. They say these acts are motivated by financial gain or to exchange prisoners held by opposing forces. 

    They say pro-government forces use the threat of rape as a tool to terrorize and punish women, men and children perceived as being associated with the opposition.

    Bouckaert says some elements of the opposition are no better than the Assad government when it comes to observing human rights.

    “Both sides are responsible for war crimes," he said. "Both sides are responsible for just reprehensible atrocities in Syria. And, one of the shortcomings of the commission of inquiry report, once again, is that it has not made a strong call to refer this situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.” 

    The report does not cover the August 21 chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,400 people in a Damascus suburb. The United States blames the attack on the Syrian government, an accusation the government denies.

    Bouckaert, who authored a recent Human Rights Watch report on chemical weapons, says his group's report presents convincing evidence that the Assad government was behind the chemical attacks.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.