The United Nations’ human rights chief said an inquiry has found evidence that war crimes were authorized at the “highest level” of the Syrian government, including by President Bashar Assad. Monday’s statement is the first time the U.N. has so directly incriminated him.

The U.N.’s inquiry into Syria has produced “massive evidence … [of] very serious crimes, war crimes, crimes against humanity,” commissioner Navi Pillay said. “The scale of viciousness of the abuses being perpetrated by elements on both sides almost defies belief.”

The inquiry had previously reported evidence of human rights abuses by rebel forces fighting in the country’s civil war, which the U.N. estimates has killed 100,000 people so far.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad was dismissive of the findings, particularly the remarks by Pillay. “She has been talking nonsense for a long time and we don’t listen to her,” the BBC says he told The Associated Press.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.


Ms Pillay said the UN commission of inquiry had compiled a list of those believed to be directly responsible for serious human rights violations.

It is assumed that senior figures in the Syrian military and government are on that list, the BBC’s Imogen Foulkes reports from Geneva.

However, the names and specific evidence relating to them remain confidential pending a possible prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

She has previously called on the UN Security Council to refer Syria to the ICC.

Syria is not a state party to the ICC and therefore any investigation into the conflict would need to be mandated by the Security Council.

However, Russia and China have a veto on the council and would be highly unlikely to let such a move pass.

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