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For the last month, Washington has been tying itself in knots over how to respond to the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons. The Syrian people, meanwhile, are being subjected to ever-graver atrocities, most having nothing to do with poison gas. A new report from the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria illuminates the increasingly brutal tactics that the country’s government—and, to a lesser degree, rebels—are deploying against civilians, from electrocution and rape to enlisting medical professionals to help torture hospitalized detainees. Significantly, while the report focuses on the commission’s findings from mid-May to mid-July and doesn’t cover the August chemical-weapons attack near Damascus, it concludes that both sides are guilty of war crimes and also accuses pro-government forces of crimes against humanity.
Whether the international community will do anything to curb the escalating brutality is an open question, though Thursday’s meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov may provide some answers. If the two sides can come together and craft an agreement to secure Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, perhaps the international community can also find common ground on other measures to protect civilians—and hold Syria’s war criminals to account.
Below is a roundup of atrocities laid out in the UN report.