Posted by on August 16, 2012 in Blog

Yesterday, the U.N. released a report by an independent commission on the human rights situation in Syria, and it is every bit as tragic as one would expect from reading the daily headlines. The commission defined the situation in Syria as an “armed conflict,” noting that the “intensity and duration of the conflict, combined with the increased organizational capabilities of anti-Government armed groups” now meet the threshold of that definition.

The commission found that government forces, uniformed and irregular (shabbiha), have “committed… crimes against humanity… and gross violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including unlawful killing, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, sexual violence, indiscriminate attack, pillaging and destruction of property.” The commission said such crimes were “committed pursuant to State policy.”

Unfortunately, rebel forces haven’t acted that much better. The commission found “reasonable grounds to believe that war crimes, including murder, extrajudicial execution and torture, had been perpetrated by organized anti-Government armed groups.”  However, the report does note that these violations did not reach the “frequency and scale of those committed by Government forces.”

There is no question that the Assad government, through its brutal response to what started as a peaceful protest movement, holds primary responsibility to getting the country to where it is today. Nonetheless, the burden of ending this tragic situation rests on the shoulders of all those who are engaged in this bloodshed. As Syria expert Bassam Haddad noted in a recent PBS interview, it’s not just the Assad regime that’s falling apart in Syria; it’s the entire country that’s falling apart as a result of the ongoing crisis.

The U.N. report concludes that “the best solution is a negotiated settlement involving an inclusive and meaningful dialogue among all parties, leading to a political transition that reflects the legitimate aspirations of all segments of Syrian society, including ethnic and religious minorities.” Much easier said than done, but that would indeed be the right track.

You can read the full report here.

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