UN accuses both sides of war crimes in Syria


A Syrian man stands where his home once was in the Tariq al-Bab district of the northern city of Aleppo.


Pablo Tosco

A report published by the United Nations Wednesday accused both regime and rebel forces in the Syrian conflict of committing war crimes.

"Government forces have committed gross violations of human rights and the war crimes of torture, hostage-taking, murder, execution without due process, rape, attacking protected objects and pillage," the report found.

The report went on to add, "Anti-government armed groups have committed war crimes including murder, execution without due process, torture, hostage-taking and attacking protected objects." It also accused anti-government forces of "indiscriminately" shelling civilian neighborhoods. 

The report, carried out by the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria, collected evidence and interviews between May 15 and July 15.

It comes at a moment when the international community is debating how to respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime. US President Barack Obama held back on a plan to take military action against the regime, while negotiations continued to see if Syria would hand its chemical weapons over to international control.

The UN found that Assad's forces were responsible for at least eight massacres in Syria over the past year-plus. Some of the findings described in the report mentioned "the detention and torture of children as young as 13." 

The report's findings were based on 258 interviews with Syrians and other evidence, including satellite images and online videos.

More than 100,000 people have died in the nearly three years of bloodshed in Syria, and millions have been displaced, according to UN estimates. Thousands of civilians, particularly those stranded in rebel-held areas beyond the reach of UN aid organizations, lack the necessities for survival.

The commission's 20 investigators, tasked with gathering witness testimonies, were repeatedly denied access to Syria, Al Jazeera noted

"The perpetrators of these violations and crimes, on all sides, act in defiance of international law," said Paulo Pinheiro of Brazil, who lead the UN commission of inquiry. "They do not fear accountability," he added, reported Al Jazeera