[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said Thursday that Syrian army commanders and officials have ordered troops to attack unarmed protesters in an all-out effort to stop public demonstrations. These allegations are detailed in an 88-page report [text] based on more than 60 interviews with defectors from the Syrian military and intelligence agencies who describe, in specific detail, how numerous commanders and officials at various levels of the Syrian government ordered attacks against Syrian civilians. As a result of the alleged abuses, HRW has urged [press release] the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official websites], as well as impose sanctions against the 74 officials implicated in the attacks. According to Anna Neistat, associate director for emergencies at HRW and one of the authors of the report, “Defectors gave us names, ranks, and positions of those who gave the orders to shoot and kill, and each and every official named in this report, up to the very highest levels of the Syrian government, should answer for their crimes against the Syrian people.” One former soldier, who was deployed to Daraa with the 35th Special Forces Regiment, told HRW that his commander verbally ordered him to open fire at protestors on April 25:
The commander of our regiment, Brigadier General Ramadan Ramadan, usually stayed behind the lines. But this time he stood in front of the whole brigade. He said, “Use heavy shooting. Nobody will ask you to explain.” Normally we are supposed to save bullets, but this time he said, “Use as many bullets as you want.” And when somebody asked what we were supposed to shoot at, he said, “At anything in front of you.” About 40 protesters were killed that day.
While HRW has consistently characterized the ongoing abuses in Syria as crimes against humanity, the Syrian government has repeatedly defended its actions as a matter of necessity, arguing that armed terrorist groups have incited Syrian violence and are ultimately responsible for the uprising that began there last March.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] has previously urged [JURIST report] the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC [press release]. She has reported that more than 5,000 people, including 300 children, have been killed in Syria since the start of the protests in March, and that many of the killings, detentions, and acts of torture qualify, in her view , as crimes against humanity. Pillay has also called on the Syrian government to allow human rights monitors into the country and to cooperate fully with the investigations. Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Council [official website] adopted a resolution strongly condemning the recent violence [JURIST report] in Syria. Similarly, in November, the UN General Assembly’s Human Rights Committee approved [JURIST report] a draft resolution [materials] condemning Syria’s human rights violations and calling for their immediate end. Pillay also called for an ICC probe [JURIST report] into the situation in Syria in August.