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October 31, 2020

UN draws up new list of Syria war crimes suspects

Iran elite forces are providing non-military assistance to Damascus.

UN commission investigating human rights abuses in Syria says it has drawn up a new secret list of Syrians and units suspected of war crimes, the BBC informs. Lead investigator Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said they had gathered a “formidable and extraordinary body of evidence”. He also urged the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has said armed rebels are torturing detainees and carrying out summary executions. But violations by government forces were more widespread, it added. The Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria was set up by the UN Human Rights Council last year following an escalation of violence. Opposition forces were also guilty of war crimes, it found, but not of the same gravity or on the same frequency or scale as those blamed on government forces. It also concluded that government forces and pro-government militiamen had been behind the massacre of 108 people at Houla in May. On Monday, the commission told a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva that it had drawn up a “second confidential list of individuals and units believed to be responsible for violations”. Asked why the investogators would not name the suspects, he explained: “The commission considers it improper to publicly release the names due to the lower standard of proof employed by commissions of inquiry as compared to a court of law.” Another list was submitted to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in February.On Sunday, Iran says advisers from its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps are providing non-military assistance in Syria – and that Tehran may take military action if its closest ally is attacked by outside forces, the Voice of America reported.The statement by guards’ commander Mohammad Ali Jafari on Sunday is the first official acknowledgement that Iran has a military presence in Syria, where warfare during a government crackdown on an 18-month-old opposition uprising has left thousands dead. Iranian media quoted Jafari as saying that a number of “Quds Force” members “are present in Syria.” He did not indicate how many but said they are providing “intellectual and advisory help.”U.S. officials this month said Iraq was facilitating the transfer of weapons to Syria by opening its airspace to Iranian aircraft. Baghdad has denied the accusation. Jafari also said any Israeli attack on Iran would trigger retaliatory action against U.S. bases in the region and that trade through the Strait of Hormuz would be disrupted.

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