December 19, 2014
UN says world powers responsible for failing to stop Syria war crimes
All sides in Syria's civil war are using shelling and siege tactics to punish civilians and big powers bear responsibility for allowing such war crimes to persist, UN human rights investigators said today.
In their latest report documenting atrocities in Syria, they called again on the UN Security Council to refer grave violations of the rules of war to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution.
"The Security Council bears responsibility for allowing the warring parties to violate these rules with impunity," the report by the UN 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 bloodshed.
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 Syria.
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 many more.
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.