UN human rights chief: Assad directly involved in atrocities
THE United Nations has evidence that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is directly orchestrating atrocities against his opponents, according to a senior official.
The evidence paves the way for a war crime trial if he is ever handed over to face international justice, she said.
Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Mr Assad was deeply implicated in the growing toll of atrocities in Syria as she warned he must not be permitted to "trade justice for peace" in any future negotiations.
Investigators working for the UN teams had no doubt Mr Assad was personally involved in orders issued to the army and controlled its vicious sectarian allies, the Shabiha militias, she said.
"I am assured on the basis of the evidence my officers have gathered... that the evidence implicates him by the actions of his subordinates," she said.
"It points to commissions of atrocities and human rights violations by his soldiers, his forces and Shabiha. He is very much the commander-in-chief and these are his forces. The evidence points to and implicates him in that way," she added.
Reports on Mr Assad's role have been drawn from inside the regime, from survivors' accounts and from intelligence handed to the UN from outside the country.
The commission of inquiry holds details of chemical weapons attacks, mass slaughter, indiscriminate assaults and widespread torture, for use in war crimes trials.
Mrs Pillay will also endorse a claim by the UN General Assembly that the true death toll in Syria had now passed 80,000, an increase of more than 20,000 since January.
While both sides have committed war crimes, the 71-year-old South African judge blamed the regime for the intensifying brutality of the civil war, as Mr Assad increasingly turned to tanks and artillery to crush resistance.
Yesterday the UN separately predicted that the number of Syrian refugees could almost double to 3.5 million by the end of next year as it appealed for $5.2bn to help alleviate the suffering of victims of the conflict.
Mrs Pillay also expressed her fears that Mr Assad could use a new round of peace talks brokered by the US and Russia to escape responsibility.
The conference, due to assemble within weeks in the Swiss city, will attempt to form a transitional government that includes both the government and opposition.
"Those who are most responsible must be held to account. As High Commissioner for Human Rights I am particularly watchful that justice is not sacrificed for peace," said Mrs Pillay. (© Daily Telegraph, London)