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Both sides in Syria conflict responsible for war crimes: UN report

The Syrian government and opposition forces are responsible for mass killings of civilians and other war crimes in violation of international law, according to a Wednesday report [materials] by UN rights investigators. The 42-page report was based on 258 interviews [Reuters report] with refugees, conducted via Skype between May 15 and July 15. The interviews were done remotely because the 20 UN investigators have not been allowed to enter Syria. The investigators determined with high certainty that governmental forces were responsible for at least two massacres in which 450 civilians were killed. Moreover, they further reported that they received several allegations about the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. They criticized the perpetrators of the crimes for not fearing accountability and for believing that a military victory is possible.

The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has been ongoing since 2011 when opposition groups first began protesting the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and the increasingly bloody nature of the conflict has put pressure on the international community to intervene. On Tuesday Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported that the Syrian government is likely responsible [JURIST report] for the August 21 chemical weapon attacks. On Monday UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged [JURIST report] the international community to help facilitate negotiations between warring parties in Syria. Earlier this week JURIST guest columnist Curtis Doebbler argued [JURIST op-ed] that the use of military force against Syria would constitute a violation of international law. Last week the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee [official website] approved a joint resolution [JURIST report] authorizing the limited use of force against Syria. Also last week UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon questioned the legality [JURIST report] of the US plan to strike Syria.

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