Atrocities against civilians, medics and children widespread in Syria
UN report only a glimpse of the horror and brutality on the ground
The report also noted that government forces continue to employ sieges as a method of warfare. Assad’s forces have also continued to launch assaults on medical facilities and personnel.
Attacks on hospitals have occurred as recently as September 12th, when government planes bombed a field hospital near Aleppo city, reportedly killing 11 people and wounding dozens more. Opposition factions have also targeted medical personnel.
On August 16th, fighters affiliated to the al-Qaeda linked groups Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) attacked a Kurdish Red Crescent ambulance in Aleppo province killing the driver, a patient and a paramedic.
“The discriminatory denial of the right to health as a weapon of war has been a chilling feature of this conflict,” the commission reported. “Such incidents, where the sanctity of medical care is disrespected and the sick and wounded are targeted, have become an agonizing reality.”
The UN investigators found that children make up a large proportion of civilian casualties. Minors have been arbitrarily arrested and tortured by the Syrian authorities, and unlawfully detained in cells with adult detainees.
“The Government should take steps to release children from detention or to transfer them to a juvenile justice system consistent with both fair trial and children’s rights,” the report said.
The forms of torture documented by the UN commission include simulated drowning and prolonged confinement in “squatting cells,” where detainees cannot stand upright or lie down.
“One detainee was held in such conditions for 10 months, beaten daily, suspended by his wrists for 17 days, burned with cigarettes, and subjected to electric shocks,” it said.
The commission also found that medical personnel in Syrian military hospitals have been involved in torturing hospitalised detainees, some of whom died as a result of injuries inflicted under torture. Rebel forces have also used torture.
Liwa Asifat al-Shamal, a faction based near the Turkish border, kept detainees in four-foot holes covered with sheet metal for several days. Other groups have used what is known as the “Dulab” method in which the victim is forced inside a tyre and beaten with sticks, cables and other objects.
The UN report was the fruit of thousands of interviews conducted over the last 18 months. Because the commission has not yet been given permission to carry out its work inside Syria, the information gathered was based primarily on interviews conducted with Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.
For this reason, last week’s report can be considered a snapshot of a far greater horror.