Syrian forces and opposition fighters continue to commit gross human rights violations in an “increasingly militarized context” despite a shaky six-week-old ceasefire, United Nations investigators said in a report on Thursday.
As many as 38 people have been killed on Thursday by the fire of Syrian forces across the country, Al Arabiya reported citing activists at the Local coordination Committees.
Syrian army and security services committed most of the crimes documented since March, including heavy shelling and executions, as part of military or search operations in areas known to host defectors or fighters, it said, according to Reuters.
Armed rebels executed or tortured captured soldiers and pro-government supporters and abducted civilians in an apparent bid to secure prison exchanges or ransoms, it said.
“Most of the serious human rights violations documented by the Commission in this update were committed by the Syrian army and security services as part of military or search operations conducted in locations known for hosting defectors and/or armed persons, or perceived as supportive of anti-government armed groups,” said the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria, established by the U.N. Human Rights Council last year to investigate abuses there since the crackdown, AFP reported.
Children were frequently among those killed and wounded during attacks on protests and the bombardment of towns and villages by state forces, it said.
The team of investigators, led by Brazilian expert Paulo Pinheiro, has not been allowed into Syria, but based their report on more than 200 interviews of victims and witnesses conducted in the region and Geneva.
They were able to confirm 207 deaths during the two-month period. The United Nations is deploying up to 300 unarmed military observers in Syria to monitor an April 12 truce that has yet to take hold.
Security forces used lethal force against demonstrations in Aleppo, Damascus, Deraa, Hama, Homs, Idlib and in numerous villages across the country since March, the report said.
“Other unlawful killings took place during government military operations undertaken to weed out defectors, anti-government armed groups, their families and other opponents perceived to be supporting anti-government armed groups.”
The U.N. panel said it had received multiple reports of the armed opposition executing members of the army and security forces, suspected informers and collaborators.
It has already drawn up a secret list of Syrian officials suspected of ordering crimes against humanity and handed it over to U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay.
She has said that the situation in Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution.
On the ground, Syrian regime forces pounded the town of Rastan in central Homs province on Thursday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Government forces have been trying to overrun Rastan for 11 consecutive days, after rebel fighters from the battered central city of Homs regrouped in the town that straddles the main highway linking Damascus to the north.
Speaking to AFP via Skype on Wednesday, Abu Rawan, an opposition activist in Rastan, said there was no electricity in the besieged town, and a shortage of food and water.
Abu Rawan was not reachable for comment on Thursday morning.
More than 12,000 people More than 12,000 people have been killed in Syria since a revolt against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule broke out in March 2011, including nearly 1,500 since a U.N.-backed truce took effect on April 12, according to the Britain-based watchdog.
Protection of protests tops Syria rebel army goals
The rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) issued a statement on Thursday outlining its goals and principles, saying the “protection of peaceful protests” is its top priority.
The rebel group, made up largely of dissidents from the regular army, also listed among its priorities “helping the Syrian people obtain their freedom” and referring to international courts those responsible for “war crimes against the Syrian people.”
The statement, a copy of which was received by AFP in Beirut, bears the title “Founding Declaration” and also explains the structure of the rebel army fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The rebel force consists of a temporary military council whose members are officers with the rank of major and above, and whose leader is elected by the council for a three-month period which can be renewed only once, it said.
The FSA also pledged total commitment to international standards of human rights and said that its members and officers are banned from membership in any political or religious faction.
It also promised it would not “intervene in the political process after the fall of the Assad regime.”