Ivan Simnovic, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations for Human Rights, says the Syrian government has reached the “threshold” of committing war crimes: “They are widespread and committed in a systematic manner,” said Simnovic.
Speaking Thursday to Christiane Amanpour, he stated that “there is unselective shelling; there is deliberate targeting with live munition of protesters.” Then he added, “There is systematic torture going on in prisons – and this is the torture of the worst possible form.”
Asked to be more specific, Simnovic said, “I will not go into details, but it includes physical torture as well as psychological threats – threats such as raping members of family, direct torture involving putting people in unnatural positions for a long time, torturing them by burning them and so on and so on…It’s appalling.”
We cannot establish their whereabouts
Establishing the nature of those crimes was made more difficult, he said, because UN observers “were denied access to Syria, so they interviewed victims and witnesses in neighboring countries.”
Even so, he left no doubt that in terms of international law, crimes against humanity have been committed by the Assad regime: “What is new is…that the situation, at least in parts of Syria, has reached the threshold to be considered as an internal armed conflict – to put it simply, from the moment you have internal armed conflict, you can also have war crimes.”
“We are calling on all sides involved to stop the violence,” said Simnovic, “and the (Syrian) government to release arbitrarily detained persons. But this is not happening yet…We have thousands of detained, and for some of them we cannot establish their whereabouts.