UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] said Monday that there is growing evidence that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [BBC profile] is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during the nation's ongoing civil war [JURIST backgrounder]. At a press conference, Pillay declared [AP report] that there is "massive evidence" that high ranking officials in the Syrian government, including Assad, are responsible for atrocities against civilians. Pillay said that the full list of suspected criminals will remain classified until requested by international or national authorities. Pillay's remarks come as the death toll from the Syrian conflict approaches 126,000 [Reuters report].
The Syrian Civil War has been ongoing since 2011 when opposition groups first began protesting Assad's regime. Last month JURIST Guest Columnist Leslie Esbrook opined [JURIST op-ed] that an international war crimes prosecution would not end the ongoing conflict in Syria. In September the UN called for [JURIST report] an end to weapons being supplied to both Syria's government and rebels. Rights groups accused [JURIST report] the Syrian government of responsibility for August 21 chemical weapon attacks, which allegedly involved the use of sarin nerve gas. Syria's main opposition group in August urged the UN [JURIST report] to probe numerous massacres they say were committed during Ramadan by forces loyal to Assad. JURIST Guest Columnist Paul Juzdan argues [JURIST op-ed] that even if the UN Security Council decides to intervene in Syria, unilateral intervention would violate international law; a dilemma which, as discussed by JURIST Guest Columnist Patricio Galella, exposes the weakness [JURIST op-ed] of of the UN system of collective security.