Detainees held by Syria’s government are dying in such massive numbers according to a new UN report probing war crimes in the country that it denounces “a state policy to attack a civilian population”.
While giving no names, investigators point the finger of blame at Syrian officials in the civilian and military hierarchy responsible for or complicit in deaths, torture and disappearances in custody, saying:
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that the conduct described amounts to extermination as a crime against humanity.”
The UN commission of inquiry, presenting its findings on Monday, called on the Security Council to impose “targeted sanctions” on those deemed “criminally liable”.
“Those who have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity must be held accountable,” Commission Chairman Paulo Pinheiro told a news conference in Geneva.
“As the High Commissioner for Human Rights rightfully stated on February 1: ‘In the case of Syria, we are there to remind everyone that where there are allegations that reach the threshold of war crimes, of crimes against humanity, that amnesties are not permissible.”
The independent experts say mass executions and torture of prisoners by the jihadi groups Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIL, the organisation calling itself Islamic State, also constitute war crimes.
The report, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Deaths in Detention” covers March 2011 to November 2015. It is based on interviews with 621 survivors and witnesses.