Assad Regime Guilty Of War Crimes

The Guardian is commendably forthright on Syria and the Assad regime’s crimes:

“The UN has issued a damning 102-page report saying that Syrian government forces and Shabiha fighters have carried out numerous war crimes in the country including murder and torture.

They are also blamed for the notorious massacre of 100 civilians, almost half of them children, near the town of Houla in May.

The UN’s independent international commission of inquiry says the violations were the result of “state policy”. It claims President Bashar al-Assad’s “security forces and government” at the highest levels were involved in “gross violation of international human rights”.

The violations include “unlawful killing, indiscriminate attacks against civilian populations and acts of sexual violence,” it says. The report paints a bleak picture of events on the ground in Syria, noting the situation inside the country has “deteriorated significantly” since February.

The commission, led by investigator Paulo Pinheiro, reports that Syria’s rebels are guilty of violations including murder, torture and extra-judicial killings. Abuses by anti-government groups are not “of the same gravity, frequency and scale” as those committed by Syrian regime forces and allied Shabiha soldiers, it says.

The UN’s findings were published on another day of carnage inside Syria. Opposition activists said at least 30 people were killed when a Syrian jet bombed a hospital in the northern city of Azaz, close to a strategic Turkish border crossing, which was captured by rebels last month after a fierce battle.”

Copies of the report in English and Arabic can be found at the home page of the UN Human Rights Council.

The English version as a Word document is here.

Update 1: HRW mentions just one of the regime’s many crimes, attacking a hospital:

“(Aleppo) – Syrian government fighter planes fired rockets that struck the main emergency hospital in an opposition-controlled area of Aleppo on August 14, 2012, wounding two civilians and causing significant damage, Human Rights Watch said today after visiting the damaged hospital.

A rocket attack by government aircraft on the hospital two days earlier, on August 12, apparently killed four civilians and wounded three, Human Rights Watch said.

“Fighter jet attacks on a hospital twice in three days indicate that this was no accident,” said Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. “By firing rockets at a clearly marked hospital, the government shows blatant disregard for civilian lives.”

Human Rights Watch visited the Dar al Shifaa Hospital, in the Sha’ar neighborhood of Aleppo, about one hour after the August 14 attack, and examined the physical damage and rocket remnants. Hospital staff told Human Rights Watch that no opposition fighters were deployed at the hospital at the time of the two attacks, and only several armed hospital guards were providing security. Human Rights Watch saw no signs of opposition military activity in or around the hospital building.

The hospital is an established medical facility and clearly marked with a red crescent emblem on the front. “

Update 2: RTE covers the politics:

“The bloodshed has divided regional and world powers, foiling peace efforts and paralysing the UN Security Council on Syria.

Russia accused the West today of reneging on an agreement to establish a transitional government in Syria and of prolonging the bloodshed by encouraging the rebels to keep fighting to overthrow Mr Assad.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said an agreement made by world powers and the then-peace envoy Kofi Annan in Geneva on 30 June was still valid and urged the West to do more to put it into practice.

Most Western and Arab governments have called on Mr Assad to go, saying his government’s violent response to initially peaceful protests give him no place in a future Syria.

Russia has opposed tougher UN sanctions against Damascus, a long-time strategic ally, but denies it is actively helping Mr Assad remain in power.

Muslim heads of state were expected to suspend Syria from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation at a summit in Mecca today, despite the objections of Iran, Mr Assad’s closest ally.

The 57-member body’s rebuke is mostly symbolic, but it shows Syria’s isolation in much of the Sunni-majority Islamic world. “

Update 3: Ian Black describes what happened in Aleppo:

“Aleppo, the largest and most populous city in Syria, was relatively calm until May this year, with smaller demonstrations than elsewhere. But security forces and government-backed shabiha militia “routinely” used live fire against peaceful protests, killing and injuring protesters and bystanders, including children, according to the report.

Amnesty also says the families of people killed by state security forces were pressured into signing statements saying their loved ones had been killed by “armed terrorist gangs”.

In June, the gruesome killing and mutilation of three young medics who were providing emergency medical care to wounded protesters sent shockwaves through the city. Several activists told Amnesty they feared being tortured to death or summarily executed if arrested. “Being caught with medical supplies is worse than being caught with weapons,” one is quoted as saying.

A nurse who works in an Aleppo hospital described his arrest by air force intelligence in early 2012: “They wanted to know about medical treatment to injured demonstrators: who treats them, where, and who pays for their treatment and for the medical supplies. I didn’t give them any information. I was detained for three weeks and they tortured me every day.

“They beat me with cables; they beat me so much that I had open wounds. The cable cut right into my flesh. They subjected me to the dulab [the ‘car tyre’ torture method whereby the victim is forced to bend at the waist and a tyre is put over the bent body, keeping body and arms and legs immobilized while the victim is beaten] and to the shabeh [where the victim is kept in stress positions, sometimes suspended from the wrists, for long periods]. They put a gun to my head and threatened to kill me. I thought they were going to kill me.”

In early July, the Syrian army moved into Aleppo in force with tanks and combat helicopters, shelling residential districts with battlefield weapons including mortar and artillery, which are imprecise and should not be used in civilian areas. “

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