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

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs