U.N: Syria war crime evidence indicates' Assad role
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay gives a press conference on December 2, 2013 at the United Nations offices in Geneva.[ AFP/ Fabrice Coffrini]
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The U.N. human rights chief said Monday there was mounting evidence that Syrian government officials, including President Bashar al-Assad, are responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
A U.N. commission of inquiry into human rights violations in Syria “has produced massive evidence ... [of] very serious crimes, war crimes, crimes against humanity,” Agence France-Presse quoted U.N. Human Rights chief Navi Pillay as saying, stressing that “the evidence indicates responsibility at the highest level of government, including the head of state.”
However, Pillay said the lists of suspected criminals are kept under lock and key in her office and will remain sealed there until requested by international or national authorities, the Associated Press reported.
On Syria, Pillay said, “the scale and viciousness of the abuses being perpetrated by elements on both sides almost defies belief.”
The death toll in the 33-month Syrian conflict has left nearly 126,000 people dead, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
The group, which relies on a network of activists, lawyers and doctors on the ground in Syria, said it had documented 125,835 deaths in the conflict up to December 1.
The dead include 44,381 civilians, among them 6,627 children and 4,454 women.
The group said at least 27,746 opposition fighters had been killed, among them just over 19,000 Syrian civilians who took up arms to battle Assad’s regime.
The opposition toll also includes 2,221 army defectors and 6,261 non-Syrians who have joined the rebel side.
The regime side saw nearly double the overall losses of the opposition, with the Observatory documenting 50,927 dead among those fighting for Assad's government.
That figure includes 31,174 soldiers, and 19,256 members of Syrian pro-regime military groups.
The group said it had also documented the deaths of 232 members of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, and 265 other non-Syrian Shiite fighters battling alongside the regime.
The Observatory said it had also recorded an additional 2,781 deaths of unidentified individuals.
“The Observatory calls for ... serious efforts [by the international community] to stop the killing in Syria and help its people transition to a democratic state with freedom, justice and equality,” Reuters quoted the oOservatory as saying in a statement.
The United Nations does not give regular casualty counts for Syria. It has said for months that more than 100,000 have died.
While Assad was blamed for a chemical weapons attack near Damascus on Aug. 21 that killed hundreds of people, the West is now working with his forces to remove and destroy such weapons from Syria.
However, the Syrian regime’s regular offensives continue, including daily air strikes.
According to Reuters, the Observatory, which gives daily death tolls in Syria, usually cites more than 100 people killed each day, although the death toll posted by the monitoring group in recent days has doubled.
“They should not just be concerned with destroying chemical weapons when tens of thousands of Syrians have been killed by all kinds of weapons since the poison gas attacks of Damascus,” the group added.