UN: Syria government has committed war crimes

Syrian forces and their supporting Shabbiha fighters have committed “war crimes and gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” according to a report released Aug. 15 by the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI). The report found that government and Shabbiha forces are responsible for instances of rape, murder, torture and attacks on 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. The COI had previously released an inconclusive report suggesting that government forces in Syria played a role in the deaths. The new report confirms that Shabbiha fighters and government forces were responsible for the massacre. The report also notes that anti-government forces have also committed human rights violations, but says that “these violations and abuses were not of the same gravity, frequency and scale as those committed by Government forces and the Shabbiha.”

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos visited Syria and urged both sides of the Syrian conflict to respect international law and strive to protect those displaced by the violence. The government of Syria has reported that about 1.2 million people have been been forced to leave their homes because of the conflict. Amos noted that displaced civilians are experiencing shortages of food, clean water, and medical care.

The international community has strongly criticized the Syrian government during its prolonged and violent conflict with opposition forces. Head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) on Aug. 13 expressed concern about the growing number of civilian casualties in violent clashes between government forces and armed opposition groups. Earlier this month the UN General Assembly passed a resolution criticizing the Syrian government for increasing its use of heavy weapons and calling on both sides of the conflict to stop fighting.

From Jurist, Aug. 15. Used with permission.

  1. UN to end Syria observer mission
    The United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) will cease its work on Aug. 19 at midnight, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmund Mulet announced a press briefing on Aug. 16. According to Mulet, the mission must cease its work because the two conditions required by the UN Security Council to renew UNSMIS’ mandate, the cessation of the use of heavy weapons and the reduction in violence from all sides, do not exist. In meantime, the UN will be working with the Department of Public Affairs to establish a liaison office in Damascus, Mulet said. The mission’s mandate was most recently extended on July 20 for 30 days. UNSMIS, approved in April, sent up to 300 unarmed military observers and other humanitarian aid to supervise the implementation of a peace plan, however most of the monitoring was suspended in June due to increased risk from rising violence. (Jurist, Aug. 17)