United Nations investigators said on Friday that they may soon publish a list of alleged Syrian war criminals. Investigators say they hope to stem an “exponential rise” in atrocities committed during the country's four-year-long civil war.
“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,” Paulo Pinheiro, who heads a U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) commission of inquiry on Syria, said, according to a statement released Friday.
Investigators have reportedly drawn up four lists of individuals and groups they suspect of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which are being kept in a safe in Geneva, Switzerland. The lists reportedly name security commanders, self-styled “emirs”, and detention facility officials, but the commission has so far refrained from specific accusations out of concerns for due process, The Daily Star reported.
On Friday, however, the investigators said they were willing to change their approach. "We are trying to convince, to mobilize the international community to consider all options on the table for accountability and not to ignore the horrific, the abominable situation of the victims of this war," Pinheiro said at the U.N. headquarters on Friday, Al Jazeera reported.
The investigators are also set to draw up a fifth list of suspects, which will be provided to the UNHRC in Geneva next month, and a decision on releasing the names is expected during a March 17 meeting. The commission said they support releasing the names as a way to hold parties accountable.
However, Bashar al-Jaafari, the Syrian ambassador to the U.N., dismissed the lists as “propaganda” aimed at demonizing Syrian President Bashar Assad and his government. “They did in the past, and they will do it in the future,” he reportedly said.
Since the start of the civil war in the country, various armed groups in Syria have been accused of human rights abuses such as torture, recruitment of child soldiers, and sexual abuse. U.N. estimates that almost 200,000 people have been killed, and over 10 million displaced, since the conflict erupted four years ago.
In 2014, the U.N. had reported that people from all sides of the conflict, including rebel groups, government forces, and Islamists, were guilty of these crimes.
“Not to publish the names at this juncture of the investigation would be to reinforce the impunity that the commission was mandated to combat,” the commission said in a report published early February.