UN: both sides to Syria conflict guilty of war crimes

[JURIST] Both Syrian government forces and anti-government rebels have committed war crimes throughout the two-year armed conflict in Syria, the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria [official website] in Syria reported [text, PDF] Monday. According to the Commission, government forces have utilized a "contraction strategy" to target suspected rebel areas with indiscriminate aerial attacks that have struck hospitals, bakeries and bread lines. In addition, government forces have allegedly exploited house searches and road checkpoints to murder, torture, rape, and "disappear" rebels and civilians. Conversely, anti-government forces allegedly continued to conduct operations in civilian areas, where the Commission reports that car and suicide bombings have been directed at non-military targets, and children as young as 15 have been conscripted into service. The Commission said that these act have created widespread and systematic terror among the civilian population. The Syrian government has not allowed the Commission to perform investigations inside Syria, and the report is based on 445 interviews conducted over the past two years:

The depth of the Syrian tragedy is poignantly reflected in the accounts of its victims. Their harrowing experiences of survival detail grave human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The destructive dynamics of the civil war not only have an impact on the civilian population but are also tearing apart the country's complex social fabric, jeopardizing future generations and undermining peace and security in the entire region.
The HRC emphasized [press release] the "urgent need" for both sides to come to a political settlement so that violence will cease. According to the report and media sources, the Commission is compiling a list of individual suspects [Al Jazeera report] in hopes of referring charges to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. The report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) [official website] in March.


The Syrian government has been in conflict with the anti-government forces since 2011, and the international community has become increasingly concerned about the violence. The conflict arose out of revolt against President Bashar al-Assad [BBC backgrounder], which began with peaceful protests that quickly turned into violence between Assad's forces and demonstrators. This month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay reported [JURIST report] that the death toll resulting from two years of armed conflict in Syria is approaching 70,000. Last month more than 50 countries asked the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria [JURIST report] to the ICC. A study carried out by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reported in January that the average number of deaths per month has increased significantly [JURIST report] since the summer of 2011, where the average was approximately 1,000 per month, to an average of 5,000 deaths per month since July 2012. A UN official said in November that a video posted on the Internet of Syrian rebels executing government soldiers who had surrendered may be evidence of war crimes [JURIST report]. In October, Pillay called on the international community to work to bring an end to the Syrian conflict [JURIST report]. In September UN investigators reported [JURIST report] that the number and frequency of human rights violations committed by both sides of the conflict were increasing rapidly.

 

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