UN says both sides have committed war crimes in Syria's civil war

Posted Feb 18, 2013 by Eko Armunanto
Both government forces and armed rebels in Syria's war are committing war crimes, including killings and torture, spreading terror among civilians in a nearly two-year-old conflict.
The U.N. Security Council was urged to act urgently to ensure accountability for war crimes committed by both sides in the conflict that has killed an estimated 70,000 people since a revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began in March, 2011.
Carla del Ponte, a United Nations human rights investigator, said Monday that The UN Security Council should refer Syria to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to prosecute those responsible for war crimes and other abuses committed in nearly two years of conflict.
Speaking as the United Nations Human Rights Council commission investigating Syria, she further emphasized that violence in Syria was worsening, aggravated by increasing sectarianism, and radicalized by the increasing presence of foreign fighters. She said the conflict was also becoming more militarized because of the proliferation of weapons and types of weapons used.
"Del Ponte, who brought former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to the ICC on war crimes charges, said the ICC prosecutor would need to deepen the investigation on Syria before an indictment could be prepared", Stephanie Nebehay reported for Reuters.
del Ponte claimed that she had identified seven massacres during the period, five on the government side, two on the armed opponents side. "We need to enter the sites to be able to confirm elements of proof that we have", she said.
There was information in the attack on the university of Aleppo, for eaxmple, that it came from the government side and from the rebel side. She went on explaining "If we had been able to enter and examine the site and carry out a scientific investigation, we would have a definitive answer".
According to Nick Cumming's report for The New York Times, the findings were based on 445 interviews. Credible evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity were found committed by both government and opposition forces in the six months to mid-January, including massacres, summary executions, torture, attacks by armed groups on civilians, sexual violence and abuses against children.
Rebel forces have also committed their own war crimes including murder, torture, hostage-taking and using children under age 15 in hostilities. Civilians were endangered by positioning military objectives inside civilian areas, rebel snipers have caused considerable civilian casualties.
But the violations and abuses committed by anti-government armed groups did not, however, reach the intensity and scale of those committed by government forces and affiliated militia, said Al Jazeera. "In some incidents, such as in the assault on Harak, indiscriminate shelling was followed by ground operations during which government forces perpetrated mass killing," the report said, referring to a town in the southern province of Deraa where residents told them that 500 civilians were killed in August.
The UN report also said that foreign intervention had helped radicalize the conflict, as it favored Salafi armed groups such as the Al Nusra Front and even encouraged mainstream insurgents to join them owing to their superior logistical and operational capabilities. "Regional and international actors hampered the prospects of a negotiated settlement owing to their divergent interests. The position of key international actors remains unchanged", the report added .
The foreign fighters, many of them from Libya, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, helped detonate deadly improvised explosive devices.