(NEW YORK) -- For the first time, a United Nations inquiry into alleged war crimes committed in Syria has directly implicated President Bashar al-Assad.
U.N. Human Rights chief Navi Pillay alleged in a bombshell report Monday that there is "massive evidence…[of] very serious crimes, war crimes, crimes against humanity" and that "the evidence indicates responsibility at the highest level of government, including the head of state."
The international body has previously made accusations of mass killings, torture and rape against the Syrian government but never before has Assad, "the head of state," been directly associated with war crimes.
Pillay's allegation was dismissed by Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad, who remarked, "She has been talking nonsense for a long time and we don't listen to her."
Although Pillay wants the case handed over to the international criminal court (ICC) in The Hague to ensure accountability, such action needs approval of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. Since Syrian allies Russia and China are members, it's unlikely they would agree to prosecute Assad.
Meanwhile, the timing of the new U.N. inquiry could have an impact on a planned summit in Geneva set for Jan. 22 in which Syrian government officials and opposition groups are scheduled to hold talks in an effort to end the nearly three-year-old civil war.
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