UN investigators testified before the UN Human Rights Council [official website] on Monday that human rights violations in Syria committed by both sides of the conflict are growing in number and severity [press release]. Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic [official website] Paulo Pinheiro stated that both sides of the Syrian conflict are committing war crimes and that government forces are committing crimes against humanity. He said that the government was using regular bombing of residential neighborhoods via both artillery shelling and airstrikes and mechanized infantry to clear out anti-government groups. He also stated that the anti-government forces were abducting, torturing and executing government forces and were failing to distinguish themselves from civilians. Pinheiro also expressed concern with the growing number of Islamic militants entering the country and radicalizing the anti-government forces. The Syrian representative stated that the report was not objective and that Syria had cooperated with all efforts to peaceably end the conflict, but that the anti-government forces were not interested in negotiating. Syria further stated that the anti-government forces were merely terrorists intent on destabilizing the Middle East. According to the Commission's report, more than 2.5 million people in Syria are in need of humanitarian aid. More than 20,000 people have died [Reuters report] during the conflict. Pinheiro said that there was no military solution to the crisis and some members of the Council called for the matter to be forwarded to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] and for sanctions to be levied against Syria. Russia, which has veto power, has to this point blocked all efforts to condemn Syria.
Also Monday Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported that anti-government forces in Syria are committing war crimes [JURIST report], including torture and extrajudicial and summary executions, and requested that the UN Security Council (UNSC) [official website] refer the matter to the ICC. Earlier this month the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) [official website] called for increased aid [JURIST report] for the 2.5 million Syrians affected by the ongoing civil uprising against President Bashar al-Assad [JURIST news archive]. Last month UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon requested an immediate investigation [JURIST report] into civilian deaths in Syria. Earlier in August the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) ceased its work [JURIST report] in the country, with UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmund Mulet stating that the mission's work had to be stopped because the two conditions required by the UN Security Council to renew the UNSMIS mandate—the cessation of the use of heavy weapons and the reduction in violence from all sides—were not met. Also in August UNSMIS chief Lieutenant General Babacar Gayee expressed concern [JURIST report] about the growing number of civilian casualties in violent clashes between government forces and armed opposition groups. In June a UN commission stated that Syrian forces may have been responsible [JURIST report] for the killing of more than 100 civilians in Al-Houla in May. Assad denied [JURIST report] the allegations stating that "not even monsters" would carry out the attacks.