GENEVA (Reuters) - U.N. war crimes investigators said on Wednesday the Syrian government had the main responsibility for preventing any attacks and reprisals in eastern Aleppo and that it must hold to account any troops or allied forces committing violations.
In a statement, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry said “numerous reports” of violations by pro-government forces continued to emerge, including summary executions, arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances.
“The Syrian government in concert with allied forces now exercise effective control over eastern Aleppo, and therefore bear the primary responsibility for preventing such violations, including possible acts of reprisals,” it said. “Commanders within their ranks must ensure discipline of their troops, as well as hold transgressors to account.”
Safe passage of civilians must be guaranteed from eastern Aleppo, said the independent investigators led by Paulo Pinheiro. “At this critical moment, the illusion that military victory is still possible must be discouraged,” they added, appealing for a resumption of political negotiations.
The investigators had also received allegations of rebel groups, including Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, and Ahrar al-Sham preventing civilians from leaving the area and of fighters embedding themselves within the civilian population, increasing the risk to civilians.
Plans to evacuate rebel districts of Aleppo stalled on Wednesday as more fighting rocked the city and insurgents appeared to reject new conditions imposed on the deal by Iran. [nL5N1E865N]
The U.N. human rights office said on Tuesday it had reports that Syrian government troops and an allied Iraqi militia had deliberately shot dead scores of men, women and children in eastern Aleppo, and warned the same “slaughter” could happen elsewhere in rebel-held areas of Syria. [nL5N1E82LJ]
Reporting by Tom Miles; writing by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Gareth Jones and Giles Elgood