Syria guilty of war crimes, says UN


A UN commission of inquiry said yesterday that Syrian military and security forces had committed crimes against humanity including murder, torture and rape, and the government of President Bashar al-Assad bore responsibility.

The panel, which interviewed 223 victims and witnesses including defectors, called on Syria to halt "gross human rights violations", release prisoners rounded up in mass arrests and allow access to media, aid workers and rights monitors.

"The commission has concluded, based on its findings, that members of the Syrian army and security forces have committed crimes again humanity in their repression of a largely civilian population in the context of a peaceful protest movement," Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the three-member panel, told a news conference.

The 39-page report to the UN Human Rights Council catalogues executions, torture, rapes including of children, arbitrary detentions and abductions carried out since March by Syrian forces quashing pro-democracy demonstrations while enjoying "systemic impunity" for their crimes.

"The commission therefore believes that orders to shoot and otherwise mistreat civilians originated from policies and directives issued at the highest levels of the armed forces and the government," it said.

More than 3,500 people have been killed in the violence, according to the United Nations, while activists say that up to 30,000 have been arrested, many kept in open-air stadiums.

"Reliable sources indicated that 256 children had been killed by state forces as of Nov. 9," Pinheiro said. Reuters