Houla killings: UN blames Syria troops and militia

The Guardian reports: The UN has issued a damning 102-page report saying that Syrian government forces and Shabiha fighters have carried out numerous war crimes in the country including murder, torture and the massacre of 100 civilians, almost half of them children, near the town of Houla in May.

The UN’s independent international commission of inquiry said the violations were the result of “state policy”. It claimed president Bashar al-Assad’s “security forces and government” at the highest levels were involved in “gross violation of international human rights”.

The violations included “unlawful killing, indiscriminate attacks against civilian populations and acts of sexual violence,” it said. The report painted a bleak picture of events on the ground in Syria, noting the situation inside the country has “deteriorated significantly” since February.

The commission, led by investigator Paulo Pinheiro, also reported that Syria’s rebels were guilty of violations including murder, torture and extra-judicial killings. But it said abuses by anti-government groups were not “of the same gravity, frequency and scale” as those committed by Syrian regime forces and allied Shabiha militia.

The UN’s findings were published on another day of carnage inside Syria. Opposition activists said at least 30 people were killed and scores wounded when a Syrian jet bombed a hospital in the northern city of Azaz, close to a strategic Turkish border crossing, which was captured by rebels last month after a fierce battle.

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