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HRW: Syria rebels have committed war crimes

Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported [text] Friday that rebel fighters in Syria committed war crimes by killing at least 190 civilians and abducting more than 200 during an offensive against pro-regime villages that took place of August 4. The report, titled, "'You Can Still See Their Blood': Executions, Indiscriminate Shootings, and Hostage Taking by Opposition Forces in Latakia Countryside," presents evidence [press release] that the civilians were killed during the offensive by two opposition groups, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham and Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar. The groups are allegedly still holding hostages. The investigation uncovered evidence of indiscriminate killing of at least 67 of the 190 dead civilians who were identified. The rest of the deaths require further on-site investigation, witness statements, videos and photographs, and a review of hospital records to determine the circumstances of their deaths and whether the victims died as a result of unlawful killings. According to the report, the evidence also reveals systematic planning of the attack. The report called for the UN Security Council to immediately refer the situation to the International Court of Justice (ICC) [official website] and for neighboring countries to take measures to verify that no arms are passing through their countries for illegal means.

The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has been ongoing since 2011 when opposition groups first began protesting the regime of Assad. In September the UN called for [JURIST report] an end to weapons being supplied to both Syria's government and rebels. Rights groups accused [JURIST report] the Syrian government of responsibility for August 21 chemical weapon attacks, which allegedly involved the use of sarin nerve gas. Syria's main opposition group in August urged the UN [JURIST report] to probe numerous massacres they say were committed during Ramadan by forces loyal to Assad. JURIST Guest Columnist Paul Juzdan argues [JURIST op-ed] that even if the UN Security Council decides to intervene in Syria, unilateral intervention would violate international law.

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