UN accuses Islamic State, Syrian government of committing war crimes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 August, 2014, 7:05pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 6:09am

Islamic State (IS) forces in northern Syria are waging a campaign to instil fear, carrying out amputations, public executions and whippings, UN investigators said yesterday.

Syria's government and IS insurgents are both committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in their war against each other, the investigators said.

Government forces had dropped barrel bombs on civilian areas, including some believed to contain the chemical agent chlorine in eight incidents in April, and had committed other war crimes that should be prosecuted, the UN officials said in a 45-page report issued in Geneva.

"Executions in public spaces have become a common spectacle on Fridays in al Raqqa and [IS]-controlled areas of Aleppo governorate [province]," the report said. "Children have been present at the executions, which take the form of beheading or shooting in the head at close range ... Bodies are placed on public display, often on crucifixes, for up to three days, serving as a warning to local residents."

Deaths in custody in Syrian jails were on the rise and forensic analysis of 26,948 photographs, allegedly taken between 2011 and 2013 in government detention centres, proved "longstanding findings of systematic torture and deaths of detainees", the report said.

The UN report is based on 480 interviews and documentary evidence gathered by a team building a criminal prosecution case.

Islamic forces, which are also sweeping through Iraq in an attempt to establish a cross-border caliphate, have drawn more experienced and ideologically motivated foreign fighters.

The panel described beheadings of boys as young as 15, men flogged for smoking or accompanying an "improperly dressed" female relative, and women publicly lashed for not following the group's strict dress code.

IS, which declared a "caliphate" - an area ruled by a Muslim leader - stretching across northern Iraq and eastern Syria, is also recruiting and training children as young as 10, with teenagers being used in active combat and suicide-bombing missions, the report said.

Its forces had committed torture, murder, acts tantamount to enforced disappearance and forced displacement as part of attacks on the civilian population in Aleppo and Raqqa provinces, amounting to crimes against humanity, it said.

The investigators have drawn up four confidential lists of suspects whom they believe should face international justice.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse