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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Top UN rights body extends mandate of independent probe into Syria violence

28 September 2012 – The United Nations Human Rights Council today voted to extend the mandate of the independent panel probing abuses in Syria, and called on all parties to put an end to all forms of violence.

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, established in September 2011 by the Geneva-based Council, reported earlier this month that the scale and frequency of gross human rights violations in Syria has significantly increased in recent weeks, with indiscriminate attacks against civilians occurring on a daily basis in many areas of the country.

Syria has been wracked by violence, with an estimated 19,000 people, mostly civilians, killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 18 months ago.

Today’s resolution was adopted by the 47-member Council by a vote of 41 in favour to three against (China, Cuba and Russia), with three abstentions (Philippines, India and Uganda).

The Council strongly condemned the “continued widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” by the Syrian authorities and the Government-controlled militia known as the Shabiha.

It also strongly condemned the “increasing number of massacres” taking place in Syria, and requested the Commission to investigate all massacres.

Strongly condemning the massacre that took place earlier this year in the village of Al-Houla near Homs, where the forces of the Syrian Government and members of the Shabiha were found by the Commission to be perpetrators of “outrageous and heinous” crimes, the Council stressed the need to hold those responsible to account.

In the report presented earlier this month, the Commission said it had found reasonable grounds to believe that Government forces and members of the Shabiha had committed war crimes, gross violations against human rights and crimes against humanity.

Violations conducted by Government forces include murder, summary executions, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, sexual violence, violations of children’s rights, pillaging and destruction of civilian objects – including hospitals and schools.

Anti-Government armed groups have also committed war crimes, including murder and torture, the panel found. In addition, children under 18 years of age are fighting and performing auxiliary roles for anti-Government armed groups.

A confidential list of individuals and units that are believed to be responsible for violations will be provided to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, the panel said.

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