News / Middle East

UN: War Crimes, Atrocities Escalate in Syria

Children push a cart with water containers along a damaged street in old Aleppo, March 11, 2014.
Children push a cart with water containers along a damaged street in old Aleppo, March 11, 2014.
Lisa Schlein
U.N. human rights investigators say the perpetrators of crimes during Syria's civil war will not escape justice.  The U.N. Commission of Inquiry says it is amassing an ever-growing list of suspected war criminals on both sides of the conflict for future use in judicial trials.

In its latest update on the Syrian war, the U.N. investigators present evidence of atrocities and increasingly brutal methods of warfare.  The report says the warring parties use civilians as hostages and human shields in the three year conflict that shows no sign of subsiding.

The report, submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council, covers what it calls the “most egregious violations” of human rights committed by government and rebel forces between January 20 and March 10.  It says civilians are repeatedly the victims of acts of terror by both sides.  

The report accuses the al-Qaida linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant of using the Children’s Hospital building in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo as its headquarters and as a detention facility.  It says the jihadist group conducted mass executions of detainees in the days and hours before coming under attack by other rebel groups.  

The investigators condemn Syrian government forces for dropping "barrel bombs" on Aleppo and other cities.  It says this weapon has spread terror among the civilian population and has caused many civilian casualties.

U.N. Commission of Inquiry Chairman Paulo Pinheiro warns those suspected of war crimes they will be held accountable one day.  He says the commission has drawn up a list of individuals and entities, military units and security agencies as well as armed groups and their battalions, responsible for violations and crimes.

“The “perpetrators list” contains names of persons criminally responsible for hostage-taking, torture and executions.  It also contains names of the heads of intelligence branches and detention facilities where detainees are tortured, names of military commanders who target civilians, airports from which barrel bomb attacks are planned and executed, and armed groups involved in attacking and displacing civilians.”  

Syrian Ambassador Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui rejects the report.  He accuses the investigators of relying on manipulative testimony and false media reports.  He calls it biased and politicized.

“The recommendation made by the commission to refer the Syrian case to International Courts is an unnecessary and unlawful step as there are national judicial mechanisms available in Syria.  The commission continues to ignore the role played by regional and international parties' support [for] Jihadists and Takfiri groups.  First and foremost the United States of America, Qatar, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia," said Hamoui.

The Syrian ambassador says the Commission of Inquiry has failed in its function and should step down.  He says the commission should recognize that Syria is fulfilling its role by fighting terrorism.

Pinheiro says this list is based on the testimony of more than 2,700 interviews as well as a wealth of documentary material.  He reiterates his call for the U.N. Security Council to refer Syrian suspects to the International Criminal Court.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs