Syrian President Bashar Assad
Syrian President Bashar AssadIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The United Nations Human Rights Council has decided that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is guilty of crimes against humanity.

The Council's commission of inquiry said in a ruling Monday that Assad must take responsibility for the actions of his military and security forces, which committed crimes against humanity including murder, torture and rape.

The three-member commission, led by Brazilian expert Paulo Pinheiro, interviewed 223 victims and eyewitnesses, including Syrian Army defectors.

The 39-page report to the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) listed the arbitrary detentions, abductions, murders, tortures and rapes -- including those of children -- carried out by government forces who enjoyed "systemic impunity" since the grassroots uprising that began in Syria in March.

"The commission therefore believes that orders to shoot and otherwise mistreat civilians originated from policies and directives issued at the highest levels of the armed forces and the government," stated the report. Activists have said that as many as 30,000 have been arrested. Many have simply "disappeared."

The United Nations has estimated that close to 4,000 people have been killed in the government-backed violence against the protesters, who continue to demonstrate weekly against the Assad regime. Human rights organizations and activists place the death toll higher, saying that more than 4,500 people have died since the uprising began.

The Arab League announced Sunday that it would impose sanctions against Syria, leading to decision Monday by the European Union to increase those it had already imposed.