Amnesty accuses Syria of 'reckless' attacks on citizens


AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL yesterday charged Syrian armed forces of “rampaging through towns and villages, systematically dragging men from their homes and summarily executing them”. These forces have been burning homes and corpses of the dead and shooting and shelling “recklessly” into built-up areas, killing and wounding men, women and children, Amnesty said in a 70-page document, Deadly Reprisals: Deliberate Killings and Other Abuses by Syria’s Armed Forces.

The human rights protection organisation observed that such abuses have been “widely reported” around the country in recent months as the conflict between the government and a strengthening rebel movement has expanded and intensified.

The government has been accused of using violence to punish civilians who support the opposition and to “frighten them into submission”. The report said, however, that operations by the army and loyalist shabbiha militia often followed attacks on troops by rebel fighters.

Amnesty said the outcome “was the same”: death and destruction in towns and villages.

Teams on the ground collected documentation in the northern Idlib and Aleppo provinces rather than speaking to refugees outside the country. Interviewees provided horrific details of the killing of family members and fellow villagers as well as the destruction of homes, livestock and business premises. Torture during detention was also described.

The onslaught on civilians, Amnesty argued, “is part of state policy” and should be characterised as “crimes against humanity”. It agreed with a UN assessment that in certain areas “fighting [has] reached the level and intensity . . . of a non-international armed conflict” and argued the laws of war and human rights law should apply.

These should apply also to armed groups that have tortured and killed captured soldiers and shabbiha and kidnapped and slain people known to support the government, Amnesty said.

It has received the names of 10,000 people, mainly men and boys, who have been killed during the unrest that began in Deraa on March 18th, 2011.

Amnesty called on the UN Security Council to not only condemn atrocities but also to prevent them and “hold those responsible to account”, proposing referral of the situation to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, an arms embargo and freezing the assets of regime figures.

The organisation also urged the international community to enforce the provisions of the plan put forward by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan which demands an end to the fighting, the withdrawal of forces from residential areas, the release of prisoners, and negotions between the regime and rebels.

Amnesty asked the world powers to ensure the UN monitoring mission deployed under the Annan plan has adequate resources and the ability to investigate and publicly report human rights violations.