Syrian military, militia committed war crimes against civilians, U.N. panel concludes

The Syrian military and pro-government shabiha militia perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity in the massacre of more than 100 civilians, nearly half of them children, in the village of Houla on May 25, according to a report issued Wednesday by the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The Syrian government had blamed the killings on “terrorists,” their label for the armed opposition in the country.

“Such violations were committed pursuant to State policy pointing to the involvement at the highest levels of the armed and security forces and the Government,” the council said in a statement accompanying the report.

The report could lay the groundwork for the prosecution of senior members of the Syrian government, including President Bashar al-Assad, in international court.

The inquiry commission also accused the opposition of war crimes, including murder, extrajudicial killings and torture. But it concluded that “these violations and abuses were not of the same gravity, frequency and scale as those committed by Government forces and the Shabbiha.”

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