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

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs