With the ongoing escalation of unrest in Syria, civilians continue to bear the brunt of violence in the war-torn country.
The head of the United Nations-appointed panel probing human rights abuses in the country today reported that the use of force by security forces and the military against armed groups has often led to collective punishment.
Those killed over the past year since the pro-democracy uprising began include more than 500 children, Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria.
“This is a tragic indicator of the human rights conditions in areas of unrest.” – Mr. Pinheiro
Some children were targeted by snipers; others were victims of indiscriminate shelling, he added.
Force used by the Government against armed groups often led to collective punishment of civilians.
He cites that children continue to be injured, detained and tortured.
“In many cases they are treated as adults, in disregard of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.” – Mr. Mr. Pinheiro
He adds that communities in Syria “live in despair.”
Mr. Pinheiro told the Council that the “reliable body of evidence” from the Commission’s investigations indicated that “particular individuals may reasonably be suspected of bearing responsibility for international crimes.
He says that the findings may assist future independent and credible investigations by competent authorities.
He cautioned that increased militarization and supplying arms to opposition groups are not the right responses to the violence as it could lead to more bloodshed and make it harder for human rights and peace to prevail.
Anti-Government groups have also committed abuses, he said. Although there is a great disparity between the means they use and those deployed by Government forces.
He stresses that it is imperative to break the cycle of violence to avert escalation of the armed confrontations into civil war.
“Full accountability requires fundamental reforms in the Syrian justice sector, including the repeal of laws that shield armed and security forces from justice.” – Mr. Pinheiro
Mr. Pinheiro also cites that the Syrian regime had informed the Commission that it had gathered information on 4,800 cases of human rights violations and that 74 “elements and members of public forces” have been sanctioned.
Two officers of the rank of Brigadier General and other members of the security forces have been arrested.
U.N. officials say more than 5,000 people have been killed in Syria since the start of the turmoil in the country.
Media reports say that in Damascus, the security forces have lost 2,000 dead.
The death toll keeps rising in Syria as Government forces continue their deadly crackdown against the pro-democracy protesters.