United Nations expands list of Syrian war crimes suspects

United Nations expands list of Syrian war crimes suspects

United Nations human rights investigators said on Monday they had drawn up a new secret list of Syrians and military units suspected of committing war crimes who ought to be prosecuted.

The independent investigators, led by Paulo Pinheiro, said they had gathered “a formidable and extraordinary body of evidence” and urged the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“Gross human rights violations have grown in number, in pace and in scale,” Pinheiro told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. “There is no statute of limitations on these crimes.”

He did not say if any Syrian rebels were among the names on the list, which updated a confidential one his team submitted to UN rights chief Navi Pillay in February.

Pinheiro presented the team's latest report, issued a month ago, saying Syrian government forces and allied militia have committed war crimes including murder and torture of civilians in what appears to be a state-directed policy.

More than 20,000 people have been killed in the 18-month-old conflict, 1.2 million are uprooted within Syria and more than 250,000 have fled abroad, the United Nations says.
Food, water and medical supplies have run short in areas subjected to Syrian government air strikes, shelling and siege, Pinheiro said, adding that investigators had received “numerous accounts...of civilians barely managing to survive”.

Pinheiro reported an “increasing and alarming presence” of Islamist militants in Syria, some joining the rebels and others operating independently. They tended to radicalize the rebels, the Brazilian expert said.

It would be “improper" to make public the list of suspects because they were entitled to the presumption of innocence and no mechanism to hold perpetrators responsible was in place yet where allegations could be contested, Pinheiro said.

His team interviewed more than 1,100 victims, refugees and defectors in the past year. “We have no interviews with wounded soldiers, or families of dead agents of the government because the government of Syria does now allow us access to Syria.”

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