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UN COMMISSION OF INQUIRY RELEASES UPDATE ON SYRIA

11 March 2013

GENEVA (11 March 2013) – While presenting its latest report to the Human Rights Council today, the independent international Commission of Inquiry on Syria on Monday also released a periodic update of its findings, covering the period 15 January to 3 March 2013.

The new 10-page update – the latest in a series of reports and updates produced by the Commission since it began its work in August 2011 – describes Syria’s slide into an increasingly destructive civil war.

The update emphasizes that the main cause of the staggering civilian casualties, mass displacement and destruction is the reckless manner in which parties to the conflict conduct hostilities.  Based on first-hand accounts collected from 191 interviews conducted in the month of February, it describes a dramatic erosion of civilian space and the spread of violence throughout Syria, noting that mass displacement is exacerbated by diminishing areas in which civilians can seek refuge.

The conflict continues to be waged by both Government forces and anti-Government armed groups with insufficient respect for the protection of the civilian population, in clear violation of international humanitarian law.  The Government continues its indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombardment of civilian areas, whilst in several instances anti-Government armed groups have located military objectives within or near densely populated areas.  The update stresses how the brutality of the war is spelt out all too clearly by the perpetration of massacres.  Three have reportedly been committed in Homs governorate since December 2012 alone.  Many more remain under investigation.

One of the most alarming features of the conflict has been the use of medical care as a tactic of war.  Medical personnel and hospitals have been deliberately targeted and are treated by parties to the conflict as military objectives.  Medical access has been denied on real or perceived political and sectarian grounds.

The update calls attention to the fact that local residents in some areas have formed ‘Popular Committees’, reportedly to protect their neighbourhoods against anti-Government armed groups and criminal gangs. Some appear to have been trained and armed by the Government.  There are reports that some Popular Committees have supported Government forces during military operations as an auxiliary militia.

Also documented are the ways in which those in positions of authority abuse their power to enrich themselves at the expense of the powerless.  While the battle for the future of Syria continues, the conflict is providing the context for opportunistic and criminal conduct, including bribery, theft and extortion.

The Syrian Government has yet to allow the Commission to undertake investigations inside the country.


Background

The commission, which comprises Mr. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro (Chair), Ms. Karen Koning AbuZayd, Ms. Carla del Ponte and Mr. Vitit Muntarbhorn, has been mandated by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate and record all violations of international human rights law. The Commission has also been tasked with investigating allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes, and its mandate was recently expanded to include “investigations of all massacres.”

The update can be found at the following link: 
English - http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/CoISyria/PeriodicUpdate11March2013_en.pdf
Arabic - http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/CoISyria/PeriodicUpdate11March2013_ar.pdf

Additional information about the Commission of Inquiry can be found on the Human Rights Council web page dedicated to the commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. For more information please visit - http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/IICISyria/Pages/IndependentInternationalCommission.aspx


For further media information: contact Rolando Gomez, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Tel: +41-22-917.9711, email: rgomez@ohchr.org


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Rolando Gómez
Public Information Officer
Human Rights Council Branch
OHCHR, Geneva
T – 41.22.917.9711
M – 41.79.477.4411
rgomez@ohchr.org

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For use of the information media; not an official record

HR13/052E