UN investigators have called for legal proceedings against war criminals in the Syrian conflict to begin as soon as possible. They say despite "glimpses" of peace, serious violations are occurring on a daily basis.
On Tuesday, the UN Commission of Inquiry announced that it had compiled a confidential list of suspects accused of war crimes, and warned authorities against waiting until the end of the conflict before taking action.
The rights panel, tasked with documenting abuses on all sides of the Syrian war, was presenting its findings to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Meanwhile, in the same building, UN-brokered peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition were also underway.
"There are, at last, glimpses of a Syria at peace. ... There is hope of an end in sight," the head of the UN Commission of Inquiry, Paulo Pinheiro, told the forum.
"The adoption of measures that lay the ground for accountability need not and should not wait for a final peace agreement to be reached," he said, calling for "credible international or domestic criminal proceedings" over the war to begin.
Pinheiro warned that positive developments - like peace talks, a partial cessation of hostilities and Russia moving to withdraw its forces - didn't change the fact that scores of Syrians were still suffering from human rights abuses.
"Thousands are detained and tortured, many dying in places of detention," he said. "Islamic State" (IS) is still using suicide bombs in civilian areas and holding more than 3,000 Yazidi women as sexual slaves, he added. Pinheiro also deplored the indiscriminate attacks on civilians by the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. The partial ceasefire between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces and opposition groups doesn't cover IS or the Nusra Front.
The Syrian conflict, which began in 2011, has claimed more than 270,000 lives and forced millions of people to leave their homes. The UN is hoping the new round of peace talks, which resumed this week in Geneva, will pave the way for an agreement on a plan for political transition in Syria over the next few weeks.