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Wednesday 17 September 2014

Syria war crimes 'by both sides'

Published 18/02/2013 | 21:46

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Muddy boots belonging to Syrian refugees are seen at the entrance of a tent in a refugee camp near Azaz, north of Aleppo province, Syria (AP)

A United Nations commission says fighters on both sides in Syria's civil war have committed atrocities and should be brought to justice.

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Meanwhile, European foreign ministers extended an arms embargo on the country in hopes it would limit the ability of both sides to wage war.

In Syria rebels fought to capture air bases in the north and the forces of President Bashar Assad shelled rebellious areas throughout the country.

The spreading violence despite international efforts to stop it reflects the dilemma that Syria's nearly two-year-old conflict poses for the international community.

Despite pleas from the anti-Assad opposition, even sympathetic powers are resistant to provide arms, fearing they'll fall into the hands of Islamic extremists who have risen in the rebel ranks. At the same time, international calls for a negotiated solution have gone nowhere, mostly because both sides still seek military victory.

In this context, the report issued today by the UN-appointed Commission of Inquiry on Syria served as a grim state-of-play on the brutal conflict that the UN says has killed some 70,000 people since March 2011.

The 131-page report detailed deepening radicalisation by both sides, who increasingly see the war in sectarian terms and rely on brutal tactics to advance their cause, spreading fear and hardship among the country's civilians.

The report accused both sides of atrocities, while saying that those committed by rebel fighters have not reached the "intensity and scale" of the government's violations.

Regime forces and its associated militias have committed crimes against humanity, the report said, citing murder, torture and rape. It said rebels have committed war crimes, including murder, torture, looting and hostage-taking.

The report also accused both sides of using child soldiers, citing the presence of fighters younger than 18 on the government side and under 15 among the rebels. The commission said it will submit a new, confidential list of Syrians suspected of committing crimes against humanity to the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, next month.

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