In their latest report documenting atrocities in Syria, they
called again on the U.N. Security Council to refer grave violations
of the rules of war to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for
"The Security Council bears responsibility for allowing the warring
parties to violate these rules with impunity," the report by the
U.N. commission of inquiry on Syria said.
"Such inaction has provided the space for the proliferation of
actors in the Syrian Arab Republic, each pursuing its own agenda and
contributing to the radicalization and escalation of violence."
Divided world powers have supported both sides in Syria's
three-year-old conflict and a diplomatic deadlock has exacerbated
The independent investigators, led by Brazilian expert Paulo
Pinheiro, said that fighters and their commanders may be held
accountable for crimes, but also states which transfer weapons to
Syrian government forces under President Bashar al-Assad have
besieged towns including the Old City of Homs, shelling relentlessly
and depriving them of food as part of a "starvation until
submission" campaign, the report said.
It said the Syrian air force had dropped barrel bombs on Aleppo with
"shocking intensity", killing hundreds of civilians and injuring
Insurgents fighting to topple Assad, especially foreign Islamic
fighters including the al-Qaeda affiliated ISIS, have stepped up
attacks on civilians, taken hostages, executed prisoners and set off
car bombs to spread terror, it said.
The 75-page report, covering July 15-January 20, is the seventh by
the United Nations since the inquiry was set up in September 2011,
six months after the anti-Assad revolt began.
The investigators have not been allowed into Syria, but their latest
findings were based on 563 interviews conducted by Skype or by
telephone with victims and witnesses still in the country or in
person with refugees in surrounding countries.
FOUR LISTS OF SUSPECTS
All sides have violated the rules of war embodied in the Geneva
Conventions, according to the team of two dozen who include former
U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte.
It has now drawn up four confidential lists of suspects.
Despite some tactical gains by Syrian government forces backed by
more foreign combat forces of Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi militia,
the fighting has reached a stalemate, causing significant casualties
and material losses, the report said.
"The government relied extensively on the superior firepower of its
air force and artillery, while non-state armed groups increasingly
resorted to methods of asymmetric warfare, such as suicide bombs and
use of improved explosive devices."
As part of a strategy aimed at weakening the insurgents and breaking
the will of their popular base, government forces have besieged and
bombarded civilian areas, it said.
"Partial sieges aimed at expelling armed groups turned into tight
blockades that prevented the delivery of basic supplies, including
food and medicine, as part of a 'starvation until submission'
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Rebels throughout Syria have "inflicted severe physical or mental
pain or suffering on civilian populations in areas under their
control", including on prisoners, it said.
Referring to the northern area of Raqqa that is under control of an
al Qaeda affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the
report said: "The acts committed by non-state armed groups ... in
areas under their control against the civilian population constitute
torture and inhuman treatment as a war crime and, in the context of
(Raqqa), as a crime against humanity."
Rebels have encircled Nubl and Zahra, besieging 45,000 people in the
two Shi'ite towns in Aleppo province, it said.
"The siege is imposed by groups affiliated to the Islamic Front,
Jaish Al Mujahedeen, Jabhat Al-Nusra and the Syrian Revolutionary
Front by checkpoints erected around the area and by cutting off
their electrical and water supply lines."
The war, which enters its fourth year next week, has become "deeply
fragmented and localized", with multiple front lines involving
different parties with shifting priorities, according to the report.
Kurdish forces in northeastern provinces were fighting radical
Islamic armed groups in a "distinct sub-conflict".
Thousands of foreign fighters have joined the fighting, fuelling the
sectarian dimension of the conflict that threatens to destabilize
the wider region, the investigators said.
War crimes had been committed on both sides, including torture,
massacres, rapes and recruitment of child soldiers.
"Government forces are conducting a sniper campaign in Bustan Al
Qasr (Aleppo). On one day alone in October, doctors treated five men
shot in the groin. The same month, six pregnant women were shot in
the abdomen," the report said.
On the rebel side, a 26-year-old man was detained on the ground of
his sexual orientation in October 2013. "He was beaten and hung by
his arms from a ceiling by ISIS in Raqqa. On 31 October, a school
headmistress was publicly lashed by ISIS in Raqqa for not wearing a
hijab (Islamic head covering)."
(Additional reporting by Oliver Holmes in Beirut
editing by Mark
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