Bloomberg News

Syrian Civil War Increasingly Sectarian, Commission Says

February 18, 2013

Syria’s civil war is increasingly sectarian, with both sides in the almost two-year conflict “significantly more radicalized and militarized,” according to the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

In its latest report, based on interviews with 445 people, the panel said the human-rights situation has deteriorated in Syria since July 15 amid an escalation in fighting between troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and anti-government armed groups. The panel is charged with investigating alleged violations of international law and all massacres in Syria.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay last week put the death toll from the conflict at almost 70,000. Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN envoy to Syria, has urged Assad to meet the opposition for talks. Assad’s government signaled on Feb. 12 that it’s ready to meet with the Syrian National Coalition led by opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib, who wants negotiations focused on finding a way for Assad to leave power and halt the violence.

Government forces and allied militiamen have committed crimes against humanity, torture, rape, kidnappings, war crimes and gross violations of human rights, the commission said in the 131-page report, which covers the period July 15 to Jan. 15.

Rebels have committed war crimes including murder, torture and hostage-taking, the panel said. They also have carried out bombings in civilian areas, which has “the effect of spreading terror and amounted to the war crime of attacking civilians,” according to the report. Still, “violations and abuses committed by anti-government armed groups did not reach the intensity and scale of those committed by government forces and affiliated militia.”

The commission plans to submit to Pillay next month a confidential list of people and units it believes to be responsible for crimes against humanity, breaches of international humanitarian law and gross violations of human rights. The panel’s mandate ends in March.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer M. Freedman in Geneva at jfreedman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net; Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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