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Middle East

UN probe accuses Syrian regime, Islamists of ‘crimes against humanity’

© Baraa Al-Halabi / AFP | A bombed-out building in Aleppo, northern Syria (archive photo)

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-08-27

A new UN probe into the human rights situation in war-torn Syria has painted a picture of almost-medieval barbarity, including public executions, amputations, lashings and mock crucifixions in jihadist-controlled areas.

The report, compiled by the United Nations-appointed Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, also accuses Damascus of repeatedly using chemical weapons against civilians.

The authors believe that with the international community “paralysed by the unwillingness of states to act to end the conflict”, the only hope for moving towards an end to the conflict is to refer the “growing list” of crimes to the International Criminal Court.

"Executions in public spaces have become a common spectacle on Fridays" in parts of Syria under control of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS or ISIL) the report said.

The group "seeks to destroy and remould humanity in its image, wreaking havoc on civilians, minorities and the basic freedoms of women and children," commission head Paulo Pinheiro told reporters in Geneva.

Recruitment of child soldiers

Pinheiro described how bodies of those killed were placed on public display, "creating an atmosphere of fear and terror”.

IS, which has declared a self-styled "caliphate" in an area spanning northern Iraq and eastern Syria, is also recruiting and training children as young as 10, with teens being used in active combat and suicide-bombing missions, the report said.

The jihadists, who sparked worldwide outrage last week when they released a video showing the beheading of US journalist James Foley, are guilty of widespread crimes against humanity in Syria, the commission said.

Pinheiro emphasised, though, that IS "does not have the monopoly on brutality in the Syrian conflict."

In their 45-page report, covering the period from January 20 to July 15, Pinheiro and his colleagues also detailed a wide range of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the Syrian government and other armed opposition groups.

The government, which during the first years of the conflict was blamed for the lion's share of abuses and deaths, has since January continued to kill hundreds of men, women and children every week due to the "indiscriminate firing of missiles and barrel bombs into civilian areas", the report found.

Damascus using chemical weapons

It also said that Damascus appears to have dropped barrel bombs containing chlorine on civilian areas in the north on eight different occasions in April 2014.

"Reasonable grounds exist to believe that chemical agents, likely chlorine, were used on (northern Syrian villages) Kafr Zeita, al-Tamana and Tal Minnis in eight incidents within a 10-day period in April," the report alleged.

President Bashar al-Assad's regime and rebels have both accused the other of using chemical agents in the bloody uprising that began in March 2011 and continues, in spite of Damascus promising to hand over all its chemical weapons.

The commission, which was created three years ago by the UN Human Rights Council, lamented the "atmosphere of impunity" for all warring parties in Syria.

No international action

The investigators especially lashed out at the lack of international action to end the conflict estimated to have killed nearly 200,000 people.

"For three years, we have been gathering evidence against the perpetrators, and each day new crimes occur (yet) the international community does nothing," said commission member and legendary former war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte.

The investigators, who have never been granted access to Syria, rely instead on interviews in the region and via Skype, as well as photographs and other documents to reach their conclusions. They stressed that their secret list of suspected perpetrators was getting longer by the day.

Del Ponte suggested that the Security Council nominate the four investigators who compiled Wednesday’s report to prosecute the crimes at the International Criminal Court.

(FRANCE 24 and AFP)

Date created : 2014-08-27


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