Syria: UN Commission of Inquiry condemns violations by both sides in its latest report

The latest report of the UN Commission of Inquiry, released on 5 February 2013, found that the Syrian government forces and affiliated militia as well as armed opposition groups are both responsible for war crimes committed over the course of the two-year-old conflict. In addition, it underlines that the testimonies collected detail grave human rights violations and war crimes against humanity and reiterates that "[...] ensuring the accountability of all parties for crimes committed is imperative." In reference to the increasing number of Syrian refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries, the report also speaks of a 'humanitarian crisis.'
In its 131-page report, based on 445 interviews with victims and witnesses and covering the period from 15 July 2012 to 15 January 2013, the Commission of Inquiry highlights that the government forces are responsible for crimes against humanity such as "extrajudicial executions, attacks against civilians, rape, torture, enforced disappearance and murder" as well as war crimes including "arbitrary arrest and detention, unlawful attack, pillaging and destruction of property." But also anti-government armed groups appear to be the authors of "murder, torture, hostage-taking and attacking protected objects." However, the Commission of Inquiry recalls that the violations perpetrated by anti-government armed groups "did not reach the intensity and scale of those committed by government forces."

Amongst others, the report sheds light on a number of breaches of children's rights committed by both sides to the conflict. It notes that since the beginning of the crisis, children were imprisoned with adults in the same detention centres, tortured, killed and victims of sexual violence. Furthermore, there are accounts of children involved in armed combat.

The Commission concludes that there is "no military solution to the conflict" and urges both parties to enter into dialogue in order to end violence and gross human rights abuses. According to the Commission, a political solution should be favoured, as it allows for a "negotiated settlement leading [...] to a political transition that reflects the legitimate aspirations of all segments of Syrian society." Developing on potential mechanisms to ensure accountability, the Commission underlines that "International Criminal Court is the appropriate institution for the fight against impunity in Syria" and recommends that UN Security Council consider an ICC referral. Alkarama hopes to see strong support of this at the Commission's presentation of its reports to the Human Rights Council, which is scheduled for 11 March 2013 and can be viewed live on the UN Webcast.
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