Geneva/Moscow/Damascus, Sep 11: The UN commission investigating human rights abuses in Syria Wednesday said that both the Syrian government and anti-government forces are committing war crimes even as Russia said that it has proof of the rebels using chemical weapons.
In more than two years of conflict, the Syrian government and pro-government forces have continued to conduct widespread attacks on the civilian population, committing murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearance, Xinhua reported citing the latest report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria.
Both sides have laid siege to neighbourhoods and subjected them to indiscriminate shelling, said the report, which would be presented to the UN Human Rights Council’s ongoing session Sep 16.
It said that the government forces have committed gross violations of human rights and war crimes.
Meanwhile, anti-government armed groups have also committed war crimes, including murder, execution without due process, torture, hostage-taking and attacking protected objects.
They have besieged and indiscriminately shelled civilian neighbourhoods, added the report, which also called for cessation of hostilities by warring parties and a return to negotiations.
In Moscow, Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the international affairs committee of the Duma or the lower house of the Russian parliament, said that Russia has submitted proof of use of chemical weapons by militants in Syria to the UN Security Council.
“Chemical weapons must be outlawed. It is not only the government of Syria, but militants in Syria as well who have chemical weapons”" ITAR-TASS quoted Pushkov as saying in a meeting of the Duma Wednesday.
According to Pushkov, the Syrian militants”"used the chemical weapons repeatedl”".
“Russia has just turned over the evidence at its disposal to the UN Security Council,” he said.
In another significant development, a main Syrian opposition group at home has hailed the Russian initiative put forward to avert a possible military action by the US against Syria.
Safwan Akkashe, a member of the oppositional National Coordination Body (NCB), told Xinhua in an interview that the Russian initiative aimed at stripping Washington of its pretexts to unleash a military strike against Syria.
On Monday, Russia proposed a fresh initiative on the Syrian crisis, calling for putting the chemical stockpiles of the Damascus government under international control, a move that was designed to spare Syria a possible US military strike over alleged use of poisonous gas by the Syrian government in populated areas Aug 21.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem has welcomed the Russian proposal.
“From our perspective, we must do the impossible to avoid a possible military aggression on Syria,” Akkashe said, adding that averting the war is very important.
“Historic experience taught us that once aggression starts, the country would enter into a war that could lead to its destruction,” he noted.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso Wednesday said only a political solution stands a chance of ‘delivering the lasting peace that Syrian people deserve’.
“The proposal to put Syria’s chemical weapons beyond use is potentially a positive development,” Xinhua quoted Barroso as saying in his annual ‘State of the Union’ speech during the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg, France.
“The Syrian regime must demonstrate that it will implement this without any delay,” he said.
Secretary-General of the Arab League, Nabil El Araby, too has expressed his support for the Russian proposal, the United Arab Emirates’ official news agency WAM reported from Cairo.
The secretary-general stressed that the Arab League was always fully behind any political solution to the crisis in Syria since it broke out almost two years ago.
He also voiced hope that talks between Russia and the US would lead to a political resolution to the Syrian crisis.