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UN Commission to Investigate Crimes in Syria

Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Professor Paulo Pinheiro gestures during a press conference ahead of his mission on at the United Nations office in Geneva, September 30, 2011.

A U.N. commission is hoping Syrian authorities will grant permission to enter the country to investigate reports of human rights violations during anti-government protests that erupted five months ago. The U.N. Human Rights Council established the three-member Commission Of Inquiry in August to investigate serious allegations of crimes against humanity.

The Independent Commission of Inquiry was established in the wake of a report by a U.N. fact-finding mission on Syria, which documented numerous human rights violations during the government’s crackdown on dissent.

The three-member commission says it will build upon these findings. It says it will examine events since the protests began in March, work to identify those responsible for crimes and hold them accountable.

Commission chairman, Brazilian Legal Scholar, Paulo Pinheiro, says he is hopeful he can persuade Syria that it would be to its advantage to allow the commission into the country.

“The line that I am following with the Syrian authorities is that it is very important that their government will cooperate with us because this would be an opportunity for Syria to have their views, their perspectives, their angles about the events in our report," he said. "And, in any case, with or without the cooperation of Syria we will have a report.”

The commission is expected to travel to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan to collect information. It hopes to gather evidence from government officials, private agencies, protesters, and human rights defenders.

A recent report from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights found widespread and systematic human rights violations against the civilian population, which it says may amount to crimes against humanity.

Pinheiro says his report will be independent.

“We are not a judge, we are not a jury and the question of impartiality, the fact that will benefit from a previous report," he said. "I think that our past experiences can attest our impartiality and we will exercise that.”

The commission would have six weeks in which to gather evidence and prepare its report. It is due to present its preliminary findings in November to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

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