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UN: Human Rights Violators Acting with Impunity in Syria

People walk on rubble of buildings damaged by what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr district, Sept. 9, 2013.
United Nations investigators say human rights violations are continuing in Syria, with massacres being carried out by government and opposition fighters who do not fear accountability.

A new report released Wednesday by the U.N. commission of inquiry on Syria describes "relentless shelling and sieges," widespread torture, executions and rape.

It says indiscriminate or disproportionate shelling are responsible for most civilian deaths, and are the primary reason people flee their homes for other areas in Syria or neighboring countries.

The U.N. refugee agency reported last week that more than 2 million people have left Syria since the conflict began in 2011, while another 4.25 million are displaced within the country.

The commission says torture remains widespread among fighters on both sides.

The report mentions pro-Syrian forces use torture to interrogate, intimidate and punish their opponents, while there are "strong indications" that opposition groups are increasingly torturing and mistreating people they hold in custody.

The latest report covers incidents from May through July. The commission recalled its earlier reports detailing similar abuses, saying "the perpetrators are not deterred and do not fear future accountability."

The report describes the conflict as deadlocked, but says government fighters gained momentum in recent months as they took back some areas from opposition fighters. Syrian forces control major cities while rebels hold large parts of northern and eastern Syria.

The commission says government fighters are relying on "heavy and often indiscriminate firepower" to fight for areas they have been unable to capture with ground forces.

It reiterates earlier calls on all fighters to halt indiscriminate shelling in civilian areas, stop torture and the use of child soldiers, and to take steps to hold violators responsible for their rights violations.

The commission also repeats its position that there is no military solution to the conflict that has left more than 100,000 people dead. It urges the international community to support a political process, which it calls "the only path to peace."