The United Nations has accused the Syrian military of torturing, raping and killing hundreds of civilians, including children and women, as part of its crackdown on protesters demanding a new government.
The accusation was contained in a report from the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria released at a news conference in Geneva on Monday. The three-man commission was formed in August to investigate crimes against humanity in Syria since the protest movement there started in March.
The 39-page report documents patterns of summary execution, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture, including sexual violence, as well as violations of children's rights. Panel members Paulo Pinheiro, Yakin Ertürk and Karen Koning AbuZayd based their findings on interviews with 223 victims and witnesses of alleged human rights violations, including civilians and defectors from the military and the security forces.
As of November, government forces have killed 256 children with a boy being sexually tortured and a 2-year-old girl shot to death, according to Associated Press. Syrian security forces and militias were ordered to shoot dead unarmed protesters.
Defectors from the Syrian military and militia said they were given shoot to kill orders during a crackdown on protesters in Latakia in April and in August, according to Skynews.com.
"The commission is thus gravely concerned that crimes against humanity of murder, torture, rape or other forms of sexual violence of comparable gravity, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty, enforced disappearances of persons and other inhumane acts of a similar character have occurred in different locations in the country since March," the report said.
The report called on the Syrian government to immediately stop human rights violations, to initiate independent and impartial investigations of these violations and to bring perpetrators to justice.
It also reiterated its call for immediate and unhindered access to Syria, noting that the Government, despite many requests, failed to engage in dialogue and to grant the commission access to the country.
Syrian women protest against the government in May.
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