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Syrian Forces Committed Crimes Against Humanity, UN Says

Syria’s military and security forces have committed crimes against humanity and “gross violations of human rights” since pro-democracy demonstrations began in mid-March, a United Nations panel said.

The UN Human Rights Council’s independent international commission of inquiry said in a report released today in Geneva it is “gravely concerned that crimes against humanity have been committed in different locations” in Syria. The panel said it documented patterns of summary execution, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture including sexual violence and violations of children’s rights.

The panel, which interviewed 223 “victims and witnesses” between late September and mid-November, urged the Human Rights Council to appoint a special rapporteur on the situation in Syria and to take “urgent steps, including through the General Assembly, the secretary general and the Security Council, to implement the recommendations in the report.”

The UN estimates that at least 3,500 people have been killed since the unrest began.

The panel called on the government of President Bashar al-Assad to end the violations immediately, initiate independent and impartial investigations and bring the perpetrators to justice. Assad is under economic and political pressure to end the crackdown against demonstrators, who are inspired by popular movements that toppled leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, the U.S. ambassador to the Human Rights Council, said today’s report “amplifies an already growing chorus of international condemnation and call for action.” Council members are collecting signatures for an “urgent interactive session” on Dec. 2 “where we will review the commission’s report and make recommendations about how to contribute to a resolution of the crisis,” she said.

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