U.N. Report: Atrocities On Both Sides Of Syrian Civil War

A new report from the United Nations finds that both sides in the Syrian civil war have engaged in human rights abuses:

A new United Nations report asserts that both sides in the Syrian civil war have committed grave crimes in violation of international law.

Government forces continue to attack civilian populations in what amounts to crimes against humanity, says the report, released Wednesday by the U.N. Human Rights Council.

But anti-government groups, in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad, have themselves committed war crimes, including murder, torture and hostage-taking, the report states.

The report provides details on nine massacres that it is investigating, eight believed to have been carried out by the government and one by the opposition.

The Syrian Government has been responsible for incidents such as this:

One of the eight massacres the report attributes to government forces is a notorious event that occurred in the village of al-Bayda in May.

Some victims in al-Bayda “appeared to have been hit in the head with blunt, heavy objects,” the report states. “Bodies of 30 women, also apparently executed, were found in a house not far from the centre while tens of bodies were strewn in the streets. Between 150-250 civilians were allegedly killed.”

“There are reasonable grounds to believe that government forces and affiliated militia including the National Defence Forces are the perpetrators of the al-Bayda massacre,” the report says.

Other massacres attributed to the government involved indiscriminate shelling of certain areas and the killing of civilians by snipers.

As for the rebels:

The anti-government war crimes recorded in the U.N. report are mostly attributed to jihadist groups who joined the battlefield late but are now among the most powerful groups.

In June, anti-government forces, including members of the jihadist Jabhat al-Nusra, attacked the Shiite areas of the village of Hatla.

“There are reasonable grounds to believe that the anti-government fighters who attacked Hatla unlawfully killed at least 20 civilians in violation of international law,” the report states.

The execution by anti-government forces of a 15-year-old boy accused of blasphemy is attributed to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Another unlawful death recorded by the United Nations is that of a Catholic priest in Idlib. The priest was one of the few remaining Christians in a town where Jabhat al-Nusra operated, the report states.

Just further proof that we need to stay as far away from this conflict as possible.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, United Nations, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Pinky says:

    I would assume that more than half of the dead are victims of war crimes. Honestly, I can’t picture either side thinking about things like innocents, or even aiming.

  2. 11B40 says:


    So, will President Obama be upgrading it to an Uncivil War ???

    As Fouad Ajami has written, those are the lands of “I against my brother; my brother and I against our cousin; and my cousin, my brother, and I against the stranger”. And guess which one is US,

  3. bill says:

    well it’s no shocker that these savages have 0.0 respect for anyone who stands in their way, yet we’re supposed to afford them all the courtesies of a “civilized” war? sure, it separates us from them but in the end dead is dead.

  4. Eric Florack says:

    exactly, Doug. At this point, Obamas moves take on the look of someone looking to get involved at any cost. the most reasonable cause for this attitude seems to me a desperate need for diversion from other matters

  5. anjin-san says:

    Obamas moves take on the look of someone looking to get involved at any cost.

    This is coming from a guy who was cheerleading for us to somehow get involved in aiding Georgia against Russia – a country with quite a few nukes and the means to deliver them.

    Funny how “conservatives” are always in favor of military action when a Republican is in charge. Because blowing things up shows we are “strong” When a Democrat occupies the White House, the calculus is based only on how the situation can be exploited to damage the president.

  6. anjin-san says:

    a desperate need for diversion from other matters

    What might those be? The full recovery of the stock market? The real estate recovery? Positive job growth instead of the jobs bleed out we were doing on under Bush? Preventing health insurance companies from punting you when you get sick after years or decades of paying premiums in good faith?

    Maybe he is trying to distract folks from noticing he is black. That, after all, is a real problem. For some folks.

  7. Pinky says:

    It’s nearly a law of history that when a revoluion or civil war succeeds, the biggest thug in the winning alliance works his way to the top. Franco, Lenin, Robespierre…the list is too long. It’s a rarity when it doesn’t happen – think Yeltsin, or our Founding Fathers. We’re seeing it at work already in Syria as the fanatics (who happen to be the best-trained fighters) are dominating the coalition of rebels. Now it the time to be supporting the non-lunatics. It’s not always easy to spot them, and given the corruption that occurs with power, you might guess completely wrong. But I really hope we’re doing it. We should also be looking for non-lunatics in the current government and encouraging the Assad regime toward reform.

  8. al-Ameda says:

    @Eric Florack:

    At this point, Obamas moves take on the look of someone looking to get involved at any cost. the most reasonable cause for this attitude seems to me a desperate need for diversion from other matters

    “a desperate need for diversion from other matters”?

    Oh, I get it … Benghazi! Of course there’s the IRS investigation of the tax-empt status of non-profit organizations, the NSA data mining that was authorized back in 2006-07, “Fast and Furious,” as yet undisclosed Administration plans to confiscate privately owned guns, and the faking of the Bin Laden killing. And, what’s behind his constant use of a teleprompter?

  9. Rob in CT says:


    Yep, that’s a real worry. If the rebels win, the hardcore nutcases are likely to come out on top. A nasty autocracy would be replaced by a repressive theocracy (with a round of ethnic/sectarian “cleansing” no doubt).

  10. Pinky says:

    @Rob in CT: You have to figure that, if the rebels succeed, there won’t be many Alawites left alive in Syria. They account for 12% of the population. The best that most of them can hope for is a refugee camp in a neighboring country. I’m sure they’ll be fine there; that isn’t really a part of the world where people get too worked up about religion.

  11. Tyrell says:

    This is why we need to send ina team of people to investigate exactly what is going on. Those who are found to be suspected of any murders of innocent people should be rounded up and sent to some kind of court. I would suspect that this is occurring on both sides.

  12. Grewgills says:

    While both sides have committed atrocities, there is more than a little difference in scale.

  13. An Interested Party says:

    well it’s no shocker that these savages have 0.0 respect for anyone who stands in their way…

    Real tough talk from someone who lives in a country that has committed its own fair share of atrocities…but keep telling yourself that all of “those people” are the “savages” if it makes you feel better…

  14. Rob in CT says:


    This is no doubt true. It also has a lot to do with capabilities. The rebels are weaker than Assad.

    One thing I didn’t see in the report was anything about rebels kicking Kurds out (ethnic cleansing). I had seen that in a news report a couple of weeks ago… possible that it was BS (planted, perhaps, by rebels)?

    Anyway, let’s hope this plays out such that the chemical weapons are off the table w/o us launching airstrikes. We can also hope for a negotiated solution to the civil war, but that’s another kettle of fish.