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U.N. Condemns Both Sides in Syria for Attacking Civilians

By NICK CUMMING-BRUCE
June 23, 2015

GENEVA — United Nations investigators condemned Syria’s government and armed opposition groups on Tuesday for deliberately targeting civilians with bombing and artillery attacks that were causing “unspeakable suffering.”

“The government, with its superior firepower and control of the skies, inflicts the most damage in its indiscriminate attacks” on civilian-inhabited areas, aiming at targets like marketplaces and bakeries where people are likely to congregate, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, who leads the four-member panel of investigators, told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Those attacks included almost daily barrel bombing of the northern city Aleppo, which the panel said was a war crime. It demanded that the commanders of the Syrian military’s air bases where bombs are loaded onto helicopters, as well as the people who produce those bombs, be held accountable.

But Mr. Pinheiro said that opposition groups, including the militant groups the Islamic State and the Nusra Front, terrorized civilian populations in government-controlled areas with indiscriminate attacks that inflicted mass casualties and appeared to be intended to punish civilians for their supposed loyalty to the government.

Graphic | The Flight of Refugees Around the Globe Mapping the migration of millions of people displaced around the world because of violence. Last year alone, about 14 million fled, according to the United Nations.

“With each passing day there are fewer safe places,” Mr. Pinheiro said. “In no instance have feasible precautions been taken to avoid or minimize incidental loss of civilian life.”

Conditions in Syria underline “a profound failure of diplomacy,” he said, observing that an international failure to take decisive action on Syria nourished a deeply entrenched culture of impunity among the warring parties and left the prospects of a political solution more distant than ever.

The United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, was continuing the consultations he began in April with all parties to the conflict. He visited Damascus for three days last week, meeting with President Bashar al-Assad and his foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, as well as with political parties, civil society groups and religious figures.

However, while United Nations member states “continue singing the mantra of only a political solution,” Mr. Pinheiro said, some states are pouring in more weapons, money, combatants and training. That only perpetuates the illusion that military victory is still possible and fuels “a brutal escalation of the violence,” he said.

“The prospects for the necessary inclusive political dialogue amongst the parties appears to be even further out of reach,” the panel’s report said.

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(via NY Times)