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An updated report published by the United Nations today paints a grim picture of the situation on the ground in Syria. The report finds that both sides, hardened by long conflict, have resorted to "unimaginable crimes" and it is "civilians who continue to pay the price for the failure to negotiate an end to this conflict."
The report (pdf), from the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, was based on 258 interviews and other evidence collected from May to July of this year.
This is the commission's bottom line:
"Government and pro-government forces have continued to conduct widespread attacks on the civilian population, committing murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearance as crimes against humanity. They have laid siege to neighborhoods and subjected them to indiscriminate shelling. Government forces have committed gross violations of human rights and the war crimes of torture, hostage-taking, murder, execution without due process, rape, attacking protected objects and pillage.
"Anti-government armed groups have committed war crimes, including murder, execution without due process, torture, hostage-taking and attacking protected objects. They have besieged and indiscriminately shelled civilian neighborhoods.
"Anti-government and Kurdish armed groups have recruited and used child soldiers in hostilities."
Of course this is especially relevant as the United States debates whether to take military action against Syria. Central to the debate have been questions about the integrity of the rebels.
In a press release, the commission explains that most of the deaths in Syria have occurred from "unlawful attacks using conventional weapons."