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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    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.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora