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Children, women among thousands of detainees killed in Syria

Press Trust of India  |  Geneva 

Thousands of detainees, including women and children as young as seven, have been executed or tortured to death by all sides of the warring parties in Syria, amounting to war crimes, a UN probe report said today.

The UN commission of inquiry on Syria, in its latest report, gave the gruesome details of prisons and detention centres run by the Syrian authorities where deaths on a massive scale were occurring.

It also detailed horrific abuses carried out in detention centres run by the radical groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front, including massacres and executions of children.

"As the conflict in Syria enters its sixth year, I repeat, sixth year, at least a quarter of a million people have lost their lives. Throughout the whole conflict countless numbers of persons, mostly civilian men, have been detained and subjected to abuse by all parties to the conflict. I repeat, by all parties to the conflict," said Paulo Pinheiro, the Chair of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Syria.

"The Commission concludes that these amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes. Detainees are subjected to violations on a mass scale," he added.

The report called 'Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Deaths in Detention', which covers the period from the beginning of the conflict in March 2011 to last November, is based on interviews with 621 survivors, witnesses and evidence gathered by the four-member team.

It gave the gruesome details of detainees being beaten to death by the Syrian government or dying subsequently from grave injuries.

"Government officials intentionally maintained such poor conditions of detention for prisoners as to have been life-threatening, and were aware that mass deaths of detainees would result. These actions, in the pursuance of a State policy, amount to extermination as a crime against humanity," the report said.

Most of the detainees who are known to have died are men, women and children as young as seven, the report said.

The government has also committed crimes against humanity of murder, rape, enforced disappearances, among other inhuman acts, it said.

Similarly, Jabhat Al-Nusra and anti-government armed groups have also committed war crimes of murder, cruel treatment and torture, and execution in detention centres, the report said.

ISIS has also committed war crimes and crimes against humanity as it subjected detainees to serious abuses, including torture and summary executions, it said.

"Accountability for these and other crimes must form part of any political solution. Instead, these violations are committed with total impunity," said Carla del Ponte, former ICC prosecutor and current member of the CoI on Syria.

The CoI on Syria was established by the Human Rights Council in August 2011 to investigate and record all violations of international human rights law and allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The report called on the UN Security Council to adopt "targeted sanctions" against persons, agencies, and groups suspected of committing these crimes.

The chief investigator Pinheiro lamented that even after two Security Council resolutions on Syria, "reality is not compatible with what the resolutions decide".

The report comes less than a week after the peace talks in Geneva hit a temporary pause only after two days of talks.

The talks are scheduled to resume on January 25 though the opposition has threatened not to come to Geneva till their conditions are met.

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First Published: Mon, February 08 2016. 22:13 IST