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UN Investigators Draw Up New List Of Syria War-Crimes Suspects

  • RFE/RL

A Syrian woman walks past a destroyed building while reaching a food distribution centre in Aleppo earlier this month.

A Syrian woman walks past a destroyed building while reaching a food distribution centre in Aleppo earlier this month.

United Nations human rights investigators have drawn up a new list of individuals and units suspected of committing war crimes in Syria.

The independent panel appointed by the Human Rights Council said on September 17 that both sides in the conflict were guilty of war crimes and urged the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.

"We have collected a formidable and extraordinary body of evidence which will remain in the custody of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Brazilian diplomat and professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the head of the panel, which presented its findings in Geneva. "Information collected, where consent was provided, will be available for future national and international justice mechanisms."

The panel said violence was escalating and rights violations were so rampant that UN investigators were no longer able to investigate all the cases they uncovered.

The list, which is being kept secret, updated one the team submitted to UN rights chief Navi Pillay in February.

According to Pinheiro Syrian government forces and allied militia have committed war crimes, including the murder and torture of civilians, in what appears to be a state-directed policy.

'Foreign Elements'

He also confirmed what he called "the alarming presence of foreign elements, including jihadist militants, in Syria."

"Some are joining antigovernment forces while others are establishing their own groups and operate independently," he said. "Such elements tend to push antigovernment fighters towards more radical positions."

The findings come as Human Rights Watch accuses Syrian armed opposition groups of subjecting detainees to ill-treatment and torture and committing extrajudicial or summary executions in the cities of Aleppo, Latakia, and Idlib.

In a report released on September 17, the group voiced "serious concern" about statements by some opposition leaders "indicating that they tolerate, or even condone, extrajudicial and summary executions."

Such killings of detainees, the report noted "in the context of an armed conflict are war crimes and may constitute crimes against humanity if they are widespread and systematic."

Activists say at least 23,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began 18 months ago.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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