Most of the victims of a recent massacre in Houla, Syria [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], were shot at close range, including women and children, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] revealed Tuesday. UN officials disclosed [AP report] that most of the civilians killed during last week's massacre appeared to be victims of execution, including 32 women and 49 children. This recent event sheds a critical light on the success of the peace plan [text, PDF] laid out by Kofi Annan [official profile], Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the League of Arab States. The plan was supposed to begin on April 12 but has not yet been successfully executed despite a resolution approved [JURIST report] by the UN Security Council [official website] to send 300 unarmed soldiers and other civilian aid for 90 days to supervise the implementation of the plan. The resolution which calls for an end of violence [JURIST report] was also the first legally binding resolution passed by the Security Council since the beginning of turmoil in Syria. The killings were blamed on pro-regime militias, shabiha [BBC backgrounder], that according to the UN are used by the Assad's government to counter protests. However, the government has never admitted to be in any connection with this military group. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Sunday that the killings may amount to war crimes [press release].
On Thursday the UN's three-member Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria released [JURIST report] a report [text, PDF] that alleged Syrian security forces as well as anti-government groups are responsible for the continuing violence in Syria including torture of children. Syria has been urged to end the escalating violence against civilians that started in March of last year. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released numerous reports alleging that Syrian government forces committed war crimes against civilians and thereby violated human rights within the last few months. In early May, HRW reported [JURIST report] such violation when government forces killed at least 95 civilians in the province of Idlib during ceasefire negotiations. In April, HRW released [JURIST report] a report showing that Syrian security forces have executed more than 100 civilians and opposition fighters.