March 11, 2013 - 19:29 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The Syrian government is reportedly using local militias known as Popular Committees to commit mass killings which are at times sectarian in nature, UN human rights investigators said on Monday, March 11, according to Reuters.
The uprising in Syria erupted two years ago with largely peaceful protests but escalated into a civil war pitting mainly Sunni Muslim rebels against President Bashar al-Assad, whose Alawite faith is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.
"In a disturbing and dangerous trend, mass killings allegedly perpetrated by Popular Committees have at times taken on sectarian overtones," the UN commission of inquiry on Syria, led by Brazilian Paulo Pinheiro, said in its latest report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. "Some appear to have been trained and armed by the government," they said.
The independent investigators, who cited accounts from witnesses and victims, said people were being harassed or arrested by government-allied militia because they came from regions perceived as being supportive of the revolt.
Popular Committees have been documented as operating across Syria, "where at times they are alleged to be participating in house-to-house searches, identity checks, mass arrests, looting and acting as informants," they said in a 10-page report.
The conflict is mired in a "destructive stalemate" amid heavy shelling and air raids by government forces, they said.
Both sides have committed violations against civilians, the UN investigators said. They were pursuing probes into about 20 cases of massacres, including three in Homs at the start of the year, despite their lack of access to the country.
The bodies of some of those killed in massacres have been burned or dumped in rivers, they said.