Syrian government forces and their militia allies committed crimes against humanity including murder and torture while rebel fighters were guilty of lesser offences, UN investigators said Wednesday.
The latest report on findings by the UN Commission of Inquiry highlighted "reasonable grounds" to believe that government forces and their Shabbiha allies were also responsible for other "gross violations of international human rights law" including arbitrary arrest, unlawful killing and indiscriminate attacks against civilians.
The 102-page report, which is to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva on September 17, said the scale of the military operations and the "similar modus operandi ... indicate the involvement at the highest levels of the armed and security forces and the Government".
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The militia loyal to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and known as Shabbiha "acted in concert with Government forces", the latest in a series of reports begun in mid-February and running to July 20 said.
For their part, anti-government fighters were also responsible for abuses, the report said, although these "did not reach the gravity, frequency and scale of those committed by Government forces and the Shabbiha".
Since the commission's last update to the HRC in late June there has been a significant deterioration of human rights in Syria, the report said, with "continuous combat, involving more brutal tactics and new military capabilities on both sides".
At least 23,000 people have died since the crackdown on the revolt against the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad began on March 15 last year, according to opposition activists.