The United Nations has accused top Syrian government officials of having committed crimes against humanity during the nearly year-long brutal crackdown against the opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.
The UN has drawn up a list of regime figures – including Assad himself -- who may one day face war crimes charges in connection with the killings, illegal detentions and acts of torture committed by Syria’s security forces in response to the uprising.
At least 6,000 people have died in Syria since last March, including at least 500 children, the UN estimates.
A reliable body of evidence exists that, consistent with other verified circumstances, provides reasonable grounds to believe that particular individuals, including commanding officers and officials at the highest levels of government, bear responsibility for crimes against humanity and other gross human rights violations, stated the report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria.
The commission has deposited with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights a sealed envelope containing the names of these people, which might assist future credible investigations by competent authorities.
The UN panel stated that four principal intelligence and security networks directly under Assad’s control — Military Intelligence, Air Force Intelligence, the General Intelligence Directorate and the Political Security Directorate — were at the heart of almost all operations.
In addition, the report points to acts of violence committed by the Shabbiha, an informal militia that supports the Assad regime.
In a number of operations, the commission documented how Shabbiha members were strategically employed to commit crimes against humanity and other gross violations, it said.
Navi Pillay, the UN’s chief human rights official, has already recommended that Syrian officials face investigation for war crimes at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
However, the UN commission also pointed to some abuses committed by Syrian rebel forces.
Meanwhile, the bloodshed continues unabated in Syria as Assad’s forces continue to bomb and devastate the opposition stronghold city of Homs.
The Red Cross was denied permission to enter the country to treat victims of the violence.