Assad - AP - 30.12.11
A poster of Syrian President Bashar Assad being held up at a counter demonstration, Dec. 30, 2011. Photo by AP
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A panel of United Nations experts has drawn up a list on Thursday of top Syrian officials who could face investigation over crimes against humanity and is indicating that the list goes as high as President Bashar Assad.

The UN experts say they have reliable evidence that Syrian army officers and "officials at the highest levels of government" are responsible for "crimes against humanity and other gross human right violations."

The panel led by Brazilian professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said Thursday it has given the UN human rights office in Geneva a sealed envelope containing the names of individuals and army units who could be probed.

The list also contains some opposition groups it says committed abuses "not comparable in scale and organization with those carried out by the state."

According to the report, Syrian forces shot dead unarmed women and children, shelled residential areas and tortured wounded protesters in hospital under orders from the "highest level" of army and government officials.

"The commission received credible and consistent evidence identifying high- and mid-ranking members of the armed forces who ordered their subordinates to shoot at unarmed protestors, kill soldiers who refused to obey such orders, arrest persons without cause, mistreat detained persons and attack civilian neighborhoods with indiscriminate tanks and machine-gun fire," investigators said in a report to the UN Human Rights Council.