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Syria Commission of Inquiry releases new update

Arabic - French

GENEVA (20 December 2012) – The independent international Commission of Inquiry on Syria on Thursday released its latest periodic update, covering the period 28 September to 16 December 2012.

The new 10-page update – the latest in a series of reports and updates produced by the Commission since it began its work in August 2011 -- paints a bleak picture of the devastating conflict and continuing international human rights and humanitarian law violations taking place in Syria.

It describes the unrelenting violence resulting in many thousands of dead and wounded, and also focuses on arbitrary detention and disappearances, huge displacement and the massive physical destruction in Syria. It describes how World Heritage sites have been damaged or destroyed, as well as entire neighbourhoods of several of the country’s biggest cities. Civilians continue to bear the brunt as the front lines between Government forces and the armed opposition have moved deeper into urban areas.

The Commission, which comprises Mr. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro (Chair), Ms. Karen 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 war crimes and crimes against humanity, and its mandate was recently expanded to include “investigations of all massacres.”

Although the Syrian Government has still not allowed the Commission to undertake investigations inside Syria, the Commissioners and their staff have interviewed a total of just under 1,200 witnesses and victims, including some 100 during the period covered by the latest update.

The update describes the increasingly sectarian nature of the conflict, with Government forces and supporting militias attacking Sunni civilians, and reports of anti-Government armed groups attacking Alawites and other pro-Government minority communities, including Catholics, Armenian Orthodox and Druze. Some minority communities, including Christians, Kurds and Turkmen, have also been caught up in the conflict, and in some cases forced to take up arms for their own defence or to take sides.

The presence of foreign fighters, some with links to extremist groups, and the radicalisation of some of the Syrian anti-Government fighters is highlighted.

The numbers of refugees and internally displaced people are already huge, and expected to swell further in the coming months if current trends continue. The onset of winter poses particular risk both to the displaced and to those living in dire conditions in Syria’s many devastated cities, towns, and villages.

ENDS

The full 10-page update can be viewed at: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/SY/ColSyriaDecember2012.pdf

The Commission of Inquiry will present its fourth report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2013.

All the Commission of Inquiry’s reports and updates since August 2011 can be viewed at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/SYIndex.aspx

For more information and media request, please contact: Hannah Wu (+ 41 79 509 05 57) or Vic Ullom (+ 41 22 917 99 89)