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Syrian civilians continue to bear brunt of ‘collective punishment’ – UN rights panel
UN News
12 March 2012 
Civilians continue to bear the brunt of violence in Syria, the head of the United Nations-appointed panel probing human rights abuses in the country said today, noting 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, told the UN Human Right Council in Geneva.
“This is a tragic indicator of the human rights conditions in areas of unrest,” he said. “Some children were targeted by snipers; others were victims of indiscriminate shelling. Force used by the Government against armed groups often led to collective punishment of civilians. (…)
(…) 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,” saying that the findings may assist future independent and credible investigations by competent authorities. (…)
(…) 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. (…)
(…) A national and inclusive dialogue is essential to break the current impasse and build a democratic society that respects and ensures the rights of all Syrians, he said.
Mr. Pinheiro stressed that the international community must work with unity of purpose to meet the legitimate aspirations for human rights, dignity and justice of all communities in Syria. He urged support for the efforts of the Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan, to help bring an end to violence and to promote a peaceful solution to the crisis. (…)
(…) The Commission was established by the Council last August to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in the country since March last year when the pro-democracy protests began.
In its report in November, the team said that the Syrian military and security forces have committed crimes against humanity during their crackdown against protesters. (…)
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