The Syrian crisis is “the worst man-made disaster the world has seen since World War II” the UN’s top human rights official says.
In a speech at the Human Rights Council, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called for an end to torture, executions and unfair trials.
“Today, in a sense the entire country has become a torture-chamber: a place of savage horror and absolute injustice.”
One day before the sixth anniversary of the start of events leading to the civil war, Hussein pushed for the release of tens of thousands of prisoners and for torturers to be brought to justice.
“Ensuring accountability, establishing the truth and providing reparations must happen if the Syrian people are ever to find reconciliation and peace. This cannot be negotiable. Detention remains a central issue for many in Syria, one which may determine the fate of any political agreement,” he said in an address in Geneva.
The Syrian government delegation did not comment at the meeting, but has previously denied allegations of systematic torture.
His statement came as the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria accused the country’s Air Force of committing war crimes. One example given involved the alleged deliberate bombing of the Wadi Barada springs, which cut off water for 5.5 million people near Damascus in December, 2016.
Both Syrian government and rebel forces blame each other for the attack.
The report covered a period between July 21, 2016 and February 28, 2017, with the Commission’s conclusions based on interviews with local residents, satellite imagery and publically-available information.
Led by Brazilian investigator, Paulo Pinheiro, the Commission also found the Syrian Air Force committed a war crime when a complex of five schools was bombed in Haas, in Idlib province, in October, 2016. Among the 36 civilians killed were 21 children.
Syrian ambassador Hussam Aala had previously said his government rejected allegations it had attacked civilians or civilian infrastructure.
Syrian or Russian aircraft were also most likely to have carried out the destruction of a longstanding Syrian Arab Red Crescent headquarters in the town of Idlib, the report added.