A UN report released Monday indicated that the scale and frequency of gross human rights violations in the ongoing conflict in unrest-hit Syria has significantly increased in recent weeks. It also accused both the government forces and rebels of committing the violations.
The report was compiled by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Syria, an independent panel commissioned by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to probe abuses committed during the ongoing Syrian conflict. The CoI has conducted more than 1,100 interviews and has delivered six reports and updates to the HRC on Syria since it was established a year ago.
The report is based on the Commission's investigations and interviews conducted up until two weeks ago. The Commission noted in the report that violations by government forces included murder, summary executions, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, sexual violence, violations of children's rights, pillaging and destruction of civilian objects - including hospitals and schools.
Accusing anti-government armed groups of also committing war crimes, including murder and torture, the report pointed out that children under the age of 18 are fighting and performing auxiliary roles for the armed rebel groups.
"Gross violations of human rights have grown in number, in pace and in scale. Civilians, many of them children, are bearing the brunt of the spiraling violence," the Chair of the Commission, Paulo Pinheiro, said while briefing the UN Security Council on Monday.
Pinheiro stated that his panel had found reasonable grounds to believe that government forces and members of the government-controlled militia known as the Shabiha, had committed war crimes, gross violations against human rights and crimes against humanity.
According to Pinheiro, a confidential list of individuals and units that are believed to be responsible for violations would be provided to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. Nevertheless, he said names of those in the list would not be publicly released because suspects were entitled to the presumption of innocence, and because there is no mechanism in place yet to punish those responsible.
Pinheiro said the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria was partly due to the ongoing conflict and economic sanctions, adding: "The Commission maintains that sanctions result in a denial of the most basic human rights to Syrians. Scarcity of basic human needs such as potable water food, electricity, petrol and cooking fuel is causing rampant inflation."
Warning that the conflict is spilling over into neighboring countries and threatening stability as well as security in the region, he called on the international community to support the mission of the Joint Special Representative of the UN and the League of Arab States, Lakhdar Brahimi, to stop the violence and find a durable solution to the crisis.
During the same UNSC meeting, High Commissioner Navi Pillay introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the human rights situation in Syria and called on all parties to immediately stop the violence. She also echoed Pinheiro's remarks in urging cooperation with Brahimi to find a solution to the crisis.
Currently, fighting is raging in Syria between government forces and armed rebels opposed to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. More than 18,000 people, mostly civilians, are believed to have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced since the revolt began in March 2011. The conflict is now viewed as a civil war by most of the international community.
The conflict has also forced hundreds of thousands of Syrians to seek refuge in neighboring Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. The crisis is now threatening to spill over to neighboring nations and is increasingly becoming sectarian in nature.
by RTT Staff Writer
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