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UN: Syria War Crimes Evidence Implicates Assad

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay attends a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Dec. 2, 2013.
The United Nations' top human rights official says evidence collected by U.N. investigators implicates Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and members of his inner circle in crimes against humanity and war crimes.

U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said Monday the scale and viciousness of the abuses being perpetrated by both sides almost defies belief and is being well documented by an expert group of investigators.

"They've produced massive evidence, they find the facts. Based on that, in their report they've outlined their view that the facts pointed out to the Commission are very serious crimes, war crimes, crimes against humanity," she said. "They point to the fact that the evidence indicates responsibility at the highest level of government including the head of state."

The four-member U.N. investigative team, which has been probing rights violations since shortly after fighting broke out, has in the past accused both the Syrian government and the rebels of war crimes.

For the first time, however, they have now cobbled together a long and confidential list of suspected perpetrators, including Assad.

Pillay said the lists of suspected criminals will remain sealed until requested by international or national authorities for a "credible investigation," and then possibly used for prosecution.

With no access to Syria, the investigators had to rely on more than 2,000 interviews in the surrounding region, or by phone or Skype, for their reports.