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UN condemns violations by both sides in Syrian conflict


The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) condemned both sides of the Syrian conflict on Monday for failing to protect civilians, as a UN human rights inquiry said the Syrian government is reportedly using local militias to commit mass killings.

The Geneva-based council assessed that both President Bashar al-Assad’s government and rebels were showing "insufficient respect for the protection of the civilian population."

"Failure to resolve this increasingly violent conflict will condemn Syria, the region and the millions of civilians caught in the crossfire to an unimaginably bleak future," UNHRC added.

The World Health Organization gave an equally alarming assessment in a press release Friday, saying the shortage of live-saving medicines in Syria was a “major concern.”

Meanwhile, the UN commission of inquiry on Syria, led by Paulo Pinheiro, said it had found evidence of Popular Committees undertaking mass killings in the war-torn country.

"In a disturbing and dangerous trend, mass killings allegedly perpetrated by Popular Committees have at times taken on sectarian overtones," the commission said in its latest report to UNHRC.

"Some appear to have been trained and armed by the government," they added.

The independent investigators, who cited accounts from witnesses and victims, said people were being harassed or arrested by government-allied militia because they came from regions perceived as being supportive of the revolt.

Popular Committees have been documented as operating across Syria, "where at times they are alleged to be participating in house-to-house searches, identity checks, mass arrests, looting and acting as informants," they said in a 10-page report.

Both sides of the Syrian conflict have committed violations against civilians, the UN investigators said. They were pursuing probes into about 20 cases of massacres, including three in Homs at the start of the year, despite their lack of access to the country.

The bodies of some of those killed in massacres have been burned or dumped in rivers, they said.

Hospitals have been targeted and medical staff arrested, Pinheiro said, denouncing the use of medical care "as a tactic of war."

Rebel forces often execute captured Syrian soldiers and pro-government fighters, and have established detention centers in Homs and Aleppo, the report said.

Rebels have also taken up positions in or near densely populated areas, in violation of international law, it said.

Syria's ambassador Faysal Khabbaz dismissed the UN report as based on "partial information from untrustworthy sources" and accused Qatar and Turkey of "supporting terrorism" in Syria.

"There is a conspiracy against Syria. Qatar has financed and armed tens of thousands of mercenaries from 30 countries. Turkey has provided the military bases and sent them into Syria on their jihad," Khabbaz Hamoui said.

Russia called the report "unbalanced" and said there was much evidence to show that the armed opposition was using sexual violence as a weapon and training child soldiers in camps.

According to the United Nations, more than 1 million Syrian refugees have fled abroad and 2.5 million are uprooted within the country, while more than 70,000 people have been killed.

(Reuters, AP, Al-Akhbar)

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