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 Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    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.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora