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UN rights chief calls for independent probe of Syria war crimes

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Friday urged an independent investigation [press release] into whether war crimes were committed when armed opposition groups in Syria allegedly executed dozens of captured government soldiers in Khan Al-Assal, a district in the northern province of Aleppo last month. Between July 22 and July 26, footage taken by opposition forces was posted on the Internet depicting government soldiers being ordered to lie on the ground, while other videos show several bodies scattered along a wall and a number of bodies at an adjacent site. Pillay noted in her statement:

Based on the analysis by my team to date, we believe armed opposition groups in one incident—documented by a video—executed at least 30 individuals, the majority of whom appeared to be soldiers. ... [T]he events in Khan Al-Assal are further evidence that flagrant violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed by all parties have tragically become the norm in the Syrian conflict.
Pillay has said that allegations that armed opposition groups in Syria executed dozens of government soldiers captured after a battle in Khan Al-Assal in July are "deeply shocking" and highlighted yet again the need to ensure those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law on all sides are made to account for their crimes.

Established by the UN Human Rights Council [official website] in August 2011, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria has been mandated to investigate and record all violations of international human rights law during the Syria conflict. In July the Chair of the commission urged the international community [JURIST report] to bring peace the country. In May Pillay expressed concern [JURIST report] regarding reports that described the slaying of entire Syrian families and shelling of communities, as well as the targeted strikes by Syrian armed forces on hospitals and schools. The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has been ongoing since 2011 when opposition groups first began protesting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [BBC profile]. The increasingly bloody nature of the conflict has put pressure on the international community to intervene. More than 100,000 people have been killed since fighting began between Syrian Government forces and opposition groups seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad. Almost two million have fled to neighboring countries and a further 4 million have been internally displaced.

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