The UN Human Rights Council [official website] on Friday passed a resolution [press release] extending the mission of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) [official website] in Syria. The panel of independent experts is charged with investigating the human rights situation in the country amidst the prolonged and violent conflict between government and opposition forces. The COI last week testified before the Human Rights council that human rights violations in Syria were increasing in severity and number [JURIST report]. Chair of the COI 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. The Human Rights Council extended the mission of the COI for one year.
More than 20,000 people have died [Reuters report] in the violent conflict in Syria. Pinheiro said that there was no military solution to the crisis and some members of the Security Council have called for the matter to be forwarded to the International Criminal Court and for sanctions to be levied against Syria. The COI released a report [text, PDF] in August concluding that the Syrian government was committing serious human rights violations [JURIST report]. The report found that government and Shabbiha forces are responsible for instances of rape, murder, torture and attacks against civilian populations. The report further concluded that the Syrian government was responsible for the deaths of more than 100 civilians, including women and children, in Al-Houla in May. They Syrian government had previously denied involvement in the massacre [JURIST report]. The COI had previously released an inconclusive report [JURIST report] in June suggesting that the government may have played a role in the deaths at Al-Houla.