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UN Panel Says Syrian Government, Opposition Abuses Continue

A video uploaded on May 23 shows smoke billowing from the rebel bastion of Al-Rastan.
United Nations-appointed investigators have accused Syrian security forces and opposition fighters of continuing to commit human rights violations, despite the announcement of a cease-fire six weeks ago.

The Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria, established by the UN Human Rights Council last year, said on May 24 that the Syrian Army and security services committed most of the crimes documented since March.

It said that included heavy shelling and executions as part of operations targeting suspected defectors from the government side or persons seen as supporting armed rebel groups.

The commission said the abuses by Syrian forces included the torture of children.

The panel said armed rebels, meanwhile, had executed or tortured captured soldiers and pro-government supporters, and also abducted civilians in an apparent bid to win prison exchanges with the government or ransoms.

The UN and Arab League-backed truce was supposed to come into effect on April 12, but it has largely been ignored, with bombings and other violence reported in Syria daily.

Opposition Council Replaces President

Separately on May 24, the Syrian National Council, an opposition umbrella group, has accepted the resignation of its president, Burhan Ghaliun.

The council, meeting in the Turkish city of Istanbul, said Ghaliun would remain in his post until June 9, when a successor will be elected.

Ghaliun's resignation comes after he faced growing criticism from other opposition organizations that he has not coordinated with them closely enough in the campaign to oust President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Reports say the criticism had threatened to fracture the Turkey-based council, which is the main Syrian opposition organization but is widely seen as having little traction with influential clans and families inside the country.

The fissures came to a head in March, when about 20 prominent members of the Syrian National Council decided to form the Syrian Patriotic Group, with the aim of building closer ties to the rebels inside Syria.

Five Dead In Syria

Activists say at least five people were killed in Syria on May 24 as government forces continued operations against pro-opposition supporters.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said three people were killed in shelling by government troops in Al-Rastan, north of Homs.

And two others were killed when troops stormed areas in Duma on the outskirts of Damascus.

The reports could not be independently confirmed. Reports from Syria are difficult to verify, as authorities have barred most foreign media from the country since the antigovernment uprising started in March 2011.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa, and CNN
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