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UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria: Impunity prevails as little progress is made towards securing peace and justice for Syrians

GENEVA/NEW YORK, 20 February 2015 -- Unthinkable crimes continue to occur daily in Syria with victims’ voices in danger of being lost amidst the horrors of a conflict now approaching its fifth year, a group of UN experts warned today.   

In its latest report, the UN commission of inquiry on Syria calls for urgent attention to be paid to the shocking crimes that continue to be perpetrated against the Syrian people.  The report, the Commission’s ninth to the Human Rights Council, charts the major trends and patterns of international human rights and humanitarian law violations committed from March 2011 to January 2015.  It draws on more than 3,550 interviews with victims and eyewitnesses in and outside the country, collected since September 2011.

The report emphasises the need for concerted and sustained international action to find a political solution, to stop grave violations of human rights, and to break the seemingly intractable cycle of impunity.

“It is unconscionable that Syrians should continue to suffer as they have for the last four years and have to live in a world where only limited attempts have been made to return Syria to peace, and to seek justice for the victims,” said Commission Chair Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro.

Violence in the Syrian Arab Republic, which began with civil unrest in March 2011, has mutated since February 2012 into a protracted and increasingly violent non-international armed conflict. The increasing number of warring parties continues to demonstrate a complete disregard for their obligations under international law.

Government authorities responded to the civil unrest with increased arbitrary arrests, disappearances and torture, and carried out increasingly indiscriminate and highly lethal attacks on civilian areas perceived to be affiliated with the opposition. That such violations are still being perpetrated underline the impunity with which the Government continues to operate.

Armed groups, which emerged following armed confrontations in June 2011, have fractured and proliferated. Two terrorists groups, Jabhat Al-Nusra and the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham, are characterised by their brutality towards civilians and attacks on minorities. They have flourished as the conflict dragged on. In 2014, as ISIS gained control of significant economic resources and expanded the area under its control, it escalated its use of tactics that instil terror among the civilian population, including public executions and mutilation.

Over the course of the spiralling violence in Syria, the Commission’s reports have extensively shown that it is civilians who have borne the brunt of the suffering inflicted by the warring parties. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed. Half of the country’s population have fled their homes, becoming refugees or internally displaced persons. Fighting-age men, women, children, detainees, the sick and wounded, medical and humanitarian workers, and internally displaced persons have been particularly targeted.

Current needs for basic assistance of all types outstrip the existing humanitarian response. Many people are hard to reach, making basic and essential protection efforts virtually impossible. Based on the prevailing trends the Commission documents in this report, the extreme hardship endured by millions of ordinary Syrians will only grow more acute unless immediate action is taken to stop the violence.

The Commission once again emphasised the shared responsibility of States, particularly those with influence over the warring parties, to find an effective, political solution to the conflict. Accountability, it stated, must form part of any future negotiations if the resulting peace is to ensure. The Commission also called upon the Security Council to work to realise the demands it set out in its Resolution 2139.

Mr. Pinheiro noted that Resolution 2139 stressed the need to end impunity and reaffirmed the necessity of bringing perpetrators to justice.

“Victims deserve more than our compassion. We cannot continue to urge an end to the conflict, and its many crimes, without there being some prospect, some means, of bringing about that end,” he said.

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.”

The full report can be found on the Human Rights Council web page dedicated to the commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/IICISyria/Pages/IndependentInternationalCommission.aspx.

The report is scheduled to be presented on 17 March during an interactive dialogue at the 28th session of the Human Rights Council.

See the report:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session28/Documents/A.HRC.28.69_E.doc

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For further media information:
(Geneva) Rolando Gómez, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Tel: +41-22-917.9711, email: rgomez@ohchr.org
(New York) André-Michel Essoungou, OHCHR New York Office, Tel: +1-917-367-9995, email: essoungou@un.org