Mass atrocity crimes are occurring and urgent action is needed.
The situation is reaching a critical threshold and the risk of mass atrocity crimes occurring in the immediate future is very high if effective preventive action is not taken.
There is a significant risk of occurrence, or recurrence, of mass atrocity crimes within the foreseeable future if effective action is not taken.
As the conflict in Syria enters its eighteenth month, violence continues. With over 20,000 people killed already, fighting has now spread across all of Syria. On 15 July 2012 the International Committee of the Red Cross characterized the situation as a “non-international armed conflict” (civil war). On 10 September the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed that “human rights abuses are rampant, and have reached the point where mass killings, summary executions and torture are the norm.”
The UN Human Rights Council (HRC)-mandated Commission of Inquiry (CoI) issued a report on 15 August stating that government forces and allied “shabiha” militias committed crimes against humanity, war crimes and gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law as a matter of state policy. The CoI also implicated armed opposition groups in the commission of war crimes, albeit on a smaller scale than that of the government. Civilians across Syria continue to bear the brunt of the conflict.
According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of 14 September 1.5 million Syrians were internally displaced while 250,000 Syrian refugees have registered in neighboring countries.
The Syrian government continues to target presumed antigovernment strongholds using artillery, tanks, helicopters and fighter jets. Allied “shabiha” militias and snipers have been deployed to attack communities, committing largescale massacres in several towns. Following several days of government bombardment, troops swept into the town of Daraya on 25 August, killing at least 320 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Opposition groups have responded to ongoing state violence by increasing their attacks upon pro-government forces, sometimes using heavy weapons. August saw government forces and armed opposition groups engaged in fierce fighting in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo.
The government has experienced a growing number of defections to the Sunni-dominated opposition, including Syria’s Prime Minister, Riyad Farid Hijab, on 6 August. However, Alawites still form the core of the command structure of the regime’s security apparatus and, along with other minorities, have largely remained supportive.
Armed opposition groups have not only been implicated in kidnappings, torture and extrajudicial killings of security forces, but in abuses committed against civilians due to their perceived support for the government.