A United Nations commission says that Syrian troops and security forces have committed "crimes against humanity" including murder, torture, and rape.
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria said in a report
commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council that the government of President Bashar al-Assad bore responsibility for the crimes.
The panel of independent experts found that Syrian forces killed hundreds of children and sexually assaulted some of them since the government crackdown began in March.
The report called on Syria to halt the "gross human rights violations," release prisoners, and allow media, aid workers and rights monitors into the country.
The UN estimates that at least 3,500 people have been killed during the eight-month long crackdown on protesters.
The report comes after the Arab League approved unprecedented economic sanctions against Syria on November 27.
Syria, in turn, said on November 28 that the Arab League sanctions amounted to a "declaration of economic war" against Damascus.
Separately, the European Union also said on November 28 that it will tighten sanctions against Damascus.
Thousands of Syrians, meanwhile, have staged state-backed rallies against what they called "foreign interference" in the capital Damascus, the second city of Aleppo and other cities.
compiled from agency reports