UN Report: Syrian Insurgents Are Guilty of "Crimes Against Humanity"

Posted: Mar 18, 2014 5:05 PM

The atrocities in Syria are about as bad as one could possibly imagine. But atrocities aren’t just being carried out by the odious Assad regime, a new U.N. report finds. Terrorist cells and Syrian militants are facilitating the bloodshed by operating compounds, where they can torture, maim, and detain their hapless victims:

The UN for the first time has accused Syrian militants of committing crimes against humanity. The United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday said several Syrian Islamist rebel groups had systematically detained and tortured civilians. The rebels' crimes against humanity, it said, were carried out in al-Raqqa province against ethnic Kurds.

UN investigators have not been allowed into Syria, but they said evidence from interviews and other sources indicates that the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the al Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham and the Shahid Walid Al-Sukhni Battalion all operate detention and torture centers.

"The acts committed by non-state armed groups identified above in the areas under their control against the civilian population constitute torture and inhuman treatment as a war crime and, in the context of al-Raqqa, as a crime against humanity," the commission said.

Previously, the UN had only blamed the Syrian government for committing crimes against humanity.

Moreover, the investigators now claim they have information on who, exactly, is carrying out these war crimes:

U.N. investigators said on Tuesday they had expanded their list of suspected war criminals from both sides in Syria's civil war and the evidence was solid enough to prepare any indictment.

The U.N. inquiry has identified individuals, military units and security agencies as well as insurgent groups suspected of committing abuses such as torture and bombing civilian areas, it said in its report to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Still, none -- if any -- of these suspected war criminals will probably ever face justice:

However, despite the accumulation of evidence, diplomats say it is unlikely Syria would be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) that tries war crimes suspects in The Hague any time soon.

As Syria has not signed the Rome statutes setting up the ICC, the U.N. Security Council would need to make the referral. Russia, supported by China, has shielded its ally Syria throughout the war, vetoing three U.N. resolutions that would have condemned President Bashar al-Assad's government and threatened it with possible sanctions.

"We do not lack information on crimes or even on perpetrators. What we lack is a means by which to achieve justice and accountability but this is not in our powers," Paulo Pinheiro, the chairman of the U.N. commission of inquiry on Syria, told a news conference.

Back in the States, meanwhile, the administration is telling Syrian diplomats and consulates to take a hike:

The Obama administration ordered the Syrian government on Tuesday to suspend its diplomatic and consular missions in the United States, requiring all personnel who are not legal U.S residents to leave the country.

The order, three years after the start of Syria's bloody civil war, essentially shutters the Syrian embassy in Washington and its honorary consulates in Troy, Mich., and Houston, Texas. It comes in response to a decision by President Bashar Assad's government to suspend consular services for Syrians living in the U.S.

Ed Morrissey is curious about the timing of this decree. Did it have anything to do with the U.N.'s startling new report? Or was there another reason for kicking Syrian diplomats to the curb? We don't know. What we do know, however, is that the U.S's relationship with the Assad regime won't really change as a result of this new policy. This seems to be largely a symbolic act, then, the purpose of which remains somewhat unclear.

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