New reports detail war crimes, human rights abuses in Syria

Syrians shout slogans during the funeral of civilians, who were executed and dumped in the Quweiq river, in the Bustan al-Qasr district of the northern city of Aleppo on January 31, 2013. The bodies of more than 80 young men, all executed with a single gunshot, were found in the river on Jan. 29. JM Lopez (AFP)/Getty Images

Both sides of the Syrian conflict are to blame for human rights abuses while fighting “a war that no one is winning,” a new UN report states.

“War crimes and crimes against humanity have become a daily reality in Syria,” the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry said in its report released on Tuesday.

According to the report, presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, there were 17 mass killings, during the panel’s four-month reporting period from Jan. 15 to May 15, 2013, that could possibly be defined as massacre.

Read the full report below

Including the murders, executions, sniper fire and other revenge killings, the UN estimates there have been at least 70,000 people killed since the start of the civil war, following anti-government uprisings in 2011.

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The four-person commission is chaired by Paulo Pinheiro, who said “Syria is in a free-fall.”

“We ask that [UN member] States exert influence over the parties to the conflict to compel them to protect civilians,” he said.

Read also: France says it confirms use of sarin gas in Syria

The report, based on 430 interviews and evidence collected by the four experts, said that government and anti-government forces were culpable for war crimes – including hostage taking, torture, rape, forced disappearance and, in the case of some anti-government groups, the recruitment of children.

The report notes the gruesome discovery of bodies in the Queiq waterway in Aleppo, over the course of several months.

Since Jan. 29, the remains of more than 200 people have been retrieved from the water, the commission wrote.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also been investigating the discovery of bodies in river. The London-based group posted a video report online, on Tuesday, detailing its own months-long examination of photos, video and interviews with local witnesses.

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Watch the Human Rights Watch video report.
WARNING: The video contains disturbing images that some viewers may be uncomfortable viewing. 

The Queiq River runs north to south between rebel- and government-controlled areas of Aleppo.

HRW said it was not able to determine who was responsible for the killings, but the organization’s investigators believe the victims, who ranged in ages from 11 to 64, were executed in a government-controlled area.

“Witnesses told us that the bodies came floating down the river from the government-controlled part of the city,” HRW researcher Ole Solvang said.

Based on photographs, HRW was able to verify there were at least 147 bodies tossed into the river — all of them men or boys.

The group said the bodies showed “clear signs of execution,” including having their hands and feet bound and their eyes and mouths taped shut.

The video, which contains disturbing imagery, shows one body being pulled from the river in that condition.

In the HRW video, a local activist named Hisham described the state of some of the victims.

“Their bodies had marks of torture,” he said. “The skulls – some of them were empty. Some had gunshots to the heart, which came out of their backs.”

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HRW said 61 victims have been identified, but others were buried without their names being known.

UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry report

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