Allegations of war crimes have been lurking in the background as the Syrian conflict has continued to rage on, but on Wednesday a United Nations expert panel concluded that both sides had perpetrated them—but those from Bashar al-Assad's regime were more serious. Specifically, the report points to the May massacre in Houla, in which Syrian troops and their supporters killed 108 people, including 49 children, The BBC reported at the time.
The U.N. report "said the murders, unlawful killing, torture, sexual violence and indiscriminate attacks 'indicate the involvement at the highest levels of the armed and security forces and the government,' " The Associated Press's John Heilprin reports. It also says "murder, extrajudicial killings and torture, were perpetrated by anti-Government armed groups," according to the U.N. press release announcing the report. "However these violations and abuses were not of the same gravity, frequency and scale as those committed by Government forces and the Shabbiha." In February, another U.N. panel concluded that the Syrian army had committed crimes against humanity, and created a secret list of Syrian officials it said should be investigated for their involvement.
The latest report is the most detailed yet about what happened in Houla, and "could be used by world powers to justify tougher outside action against Syria, or strengthen calls for an international investigation and prosecution of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity," the AP reports. It's certainly bad PR for a regime that, as On the Media reported in June, has been slowly allowing more access to reporters to show just what a complicated mess the Syrian story really is.