Assad’s regime, Syrian rebels both committed war crimes: U.N. official


The Syrian government and opposition are carrying out “serious” new rights violations including attacks on hospitals, United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay said after briefing the U.N. Security Council on Monday.

Pillay renewed an appeal for the 15-nation council to refer the Syria conflict to the International Criminal Court but acknowledged that it would be a “political” decision.

The U.N. official also said that both the government and the rebels are receiving more and more weapons, which is fueling violence in a 16-month conflict against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

She said both sides appear to have committed war crimes.

The United Nations has said the violence has killed more than 10,000 people, while activist groups have put the death toll at more than 15,000.

At least 114 people have been killed across Syria today by security force gunfire, Al Arabiya reported citing Local Coordinating Committees in Syria.

“The ongoing provision of arms to the Syrian government and to its opponents feeds additional violence,” Pillay said in the written text of remarks she made to the U.N. Security Council, obtained by Reuters. “Any further militarization of the conflict must be avoided at all costs.”

She did not say where the weapons were coming from, though Russia and Iran are among the Syrian government’s key suppliers.

Pillay touched on the U.N. Human Rights Council’s commission of inquiry’s position on a massacre of more than 100 people in Houla in May. The commission said on Friday that forces loyal to Assad may have carried out many of the killings.

Pillay said there was evidence pointing to “the greater responsibility of the government.”

She told the council that her office “cannot exclude the possibility that some of the killings were perpetrated by armed opponents (of the government).”

But she added that the “the bulk of the information gathered to date points to the involvement of government-supported Shabiha militia responsible for many of the killings, and the use of indiscriminate fire of heavy weapons by the government.”

On the topic of the U.N. observer mission in Syria, which is set to expire on July 20, Pillay urged the council strengthen the mission’s mandate, despite the French U.N. ambassador saying the mission should be “downgraded.”

The mission, which was deployed to monitor international mediator Kofi Annan’s April 12 ceasefire plan that never took hold, suspended most of its operations on June 16 due to the violence.

This weekend’s meeting of major powers on Syria in Geneva produced an agreement on a possible unity government in Damascus, though council diplomats said privately they were skeptical about whether it would have any impact on the ground.

French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said the Geneva agreement was “the utmost we could get given the divisions within the international community.”

Syria’s ally Russia, along with China, have vetoed two Security Council resolutions criticizing the Syrian government and threatening it with possible U.N. sanctions.