Russia: Syria rights report biased, silent on 'terrorist acts'

MOSCOW Wed Jun 5, 2013 9:44am EDT

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia accused unnamed states on Wednesday of using a "biased" U.N. human rights report on Syria to condemn President Bashar al-Assad's government and gloss over abuses by his foes, especially Islamist militants.

A sharply worded Foreign Ministry statement was the latest in a series of Russian accusations that Western states and international groups put too much blame on Assad's government for the conflict that has killed 80,000 people since March 2011.

The report by U.N. investigators noted torture, abductions and other abuses by insurgents, but "preferred not to qualify bombings carried out by rebels in Syrian cities as terrorist acts", the Russian statement said.

"(The report) is also silent about other bestial acts by jihadists, including many cases of sexual violence against women. This all occurs against a backdrop of increasing ... evidence of crimes by armed Islamists against civilians."

In findings aired on Tuesday, the U.N. commission of inquiry said Syrian leaders must be held accountable for policies that include besieging and bombing cities and executing civilians.

Government forces and allied militia have committed war crimes including murder, torture and rape, the report said.

But Russia, which had opposed the commission's creation, said the latest of five reports it has produced was being used to support a skewed depiction of the conflict in Syria.

"The one-sidedness and prejudice of the report has been used by ... certain states to once again groundlessly place all blame for what is happening in Syria on the government and not say a word about the many crimes and human rights violations by armed radical groups," the Foreign Ministry said.

It did not name those states but said they were playing into the hands of the "radical opposition" and suggested they were undermining the chances of convening international peace talks that Russia and the United States are trying to organize.

Russia says Islamist militants could gain the upper hand in Syria if Assad is ousted. It says it is not trying to prop up the Syrian leader but has supplied arms to his government and shielded him from Western and Arab pressure though its power as a veto-holding U.N. Security Council member.

(Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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