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Conflict in Syria reaches new levels of brutality

Geneva, 4 June 2013 -- The United Nations commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic is presenting its latest report on the human rights situation in Syria. The Commission found that war crimes and gross human rights violations continue to be perpetrated on an ever larger scale as the violence escalates.

Crimes against humanity are being perpetrated by government forces and affiliated militias as they carry out widespread attacks against civilian populations through indiscriminate shelling, unlawful killing, torture, enforced disappearance, and sexual violence. They are systematically inflicting sieges against towns perceived as hostile, while populations have been forcibly displaced.

Anti-government armed groups have also besieged towns, especially in Aleppo governorate. They are committing war crimes on an increasing scale, including extra-judicial executions, torture, hostage-taking, and pillage. The violations and abuses committed by anti-Government armed groups did not reach the intensity and scale of those committed by Government forces and affiliated militias.

The commission found reasonable grounds to believe chemicals have been used as weapons, but did not identify the chemical agent, or the perpetrator. The commission remains convinced that a political settlement is the only means of stopping the violence.

This report covers the period from 15 January to 15 May 2013. The findings are based on 430 interviews and other evidence, collected during this four-month period.

To access the report please go to:
English– http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/CoISyria/A-HRC-23-58_en.pdf
Arabic – http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/CoISyria/A-HRC-23-58_ar.pdf

To access the live or archived webcast please go to (Presentation should begin at 11:30 am CET): http://webtv.un.org/

To access video and audio (of the press conference of 3 June and of the presentation today):
ftp://CLIENT1:7dl0PY9R@unis-ftp.unog.ch
Technical contact: +41 22 917 59 57

To access photographs:
ftp://VIEW2:LD16C8Ik@unis-ftp.unog.ch
Technical contact: +41 79 444 60 41

Background:

The commission, which comprises Mr. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro (Chair), Ms. Karen Koning AbuZayd, Ms. Carla del Ponte and Mr. Vitit Muntarbhorn, has been mandated by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate and record all violations of international human rights law. The Commission has also been tasked with investigating allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes, and its mandate was recently expanded to include “investigations of all massacres.”

For further media information: contact Rolando Gomez, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Tel: +41-22-917.9711, email: rgomez@ohchr.org