UN: Syrian regime, rebels both increasing attacks on civilians (+video)
UN investigators said they have strong evidence of human rights abuses committed by both sides of the conflict in Syria, which has left more than 19,000 people, mostly civilians, dead.
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Latin America Editor
Whitney Eulich is the Monitor's Latin America editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She also curates the Latin America Monitor Blog.
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As the Syrian conflict spilled into neighboring Lebanon yesterday, the United Nations released a report indicating both the Syrian Army and rebel forces had increased attacks against civilians – which, if proved, would be war crimes under international law.
UN investigators announced they have a “formidable and extraordinary body of evidence” of human rights abuses committed by both sides of the conflict in Syria, and urged the Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.
“Gross human rights violations have grown in number, in pace, and in scale,” Paulo Pinheiro, who led the UN commission of inquiry into human rights abuses in Syria, told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday. “There is no statue of limitations on these crimes.”
The United Nations estimates that over the past 18 months of conflict in Syria, more than 19,000 people – mostly civilians – have been killed. In addition, an estimated 1.2 million are now internally displaced, and close to a quarter million have fled the country.
Mr. Pinheiro, whose team conducted more than 1,100 interviews to put together their report, noted the conflict has spilled into neighboring countries. This includes both via humanitarian ramifications – large waves of refugees seeking safety, food, water, and shelter – and through overflow of actual fighting. On Monday, four missiles were reportedly fired by Syrian jets, which struck a remote area on the Lebanese side of the border, reports The Associated Press.
The Syrian forces were believed to be chasing rebels in the area, which has been the site of clashes in the past between opposition fighters battling Syrian troops just on the other side of the frontier. Lebanese armed forces have in the past detained people in the region for trying to smuggle weapons into Syria from Lebanon.
Arsal is a predominantly Sunni Muslim town, like the majority of Syria's opposition that is trying to oust President Bashar Assad from power. Assad belongs to the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Syrian shells have hit Lebanese territory in the past but the air raid appears to be the most serious violation. Several Lebanese, including a journalist, have been killed and dozens wounded by fire coming from the Syrian side.
Monday also saw attacks on rebel-held areas of Aleppo and Damascus, reports AP. Pinheiro urged the international community to deploy renewed efforts to help resolve the conflict and end the ongoing violence in Syria.