WASHINGTON: A chemical weapons attack in Syria last summer that the U.S. says killed more than 1,400 people was the world’s worst human rights violation of 2013, the Obama administration concluded Thursday.
The State Department report also foreshadowed the unrest in Ukraine that just toppled its government.
The survey singled out some countries that appear regularly in this annual roundup of abuses: Iran, for manipulation of elections and civil liberties restrictions; North Korea, for rampant reports of extrajudicial killings, detentions, and torture; and Belarus, for beatings of protesters and lack of checks and balances by the authoritarian government.
But the department said the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburbs in Syria was “one of many horrors in a civil war filled with countless crimes against humanity,” including the torture and murder of prisoners, and the targeting of civilians with barrel bombs and Scud missiles.
“The tragedy that has befallen the Syrian people stands apart in its scope and human cost,” according to the report.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war. The chemical weapons attack, which Washington blames on the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, killed at least 1,429 people, including more than 400 children, according to the U.S.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which collects information from a network of anti-regime activists in Syria, has reported a far lower death toll of below 1,000.
The report also highlighted government crackdowns on peaceful protests in Ukraine and Russia’s refusal to punish human rights abusers during 2013.