HRW: Syria government using civilians as human shields

HRW: Syria government using civilians as human shields

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[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported on Sunday that Syrian government officials are rounding up civilians [press release] and forcing them to walk in front of the army during arrests, troop movements and attacks on villages in order to shield the army from opposition forces. The report details accounts from civilians and opposition fighters, who say the government has been doing this since January. The opposition fighters said government officials knock on doors, and whoever answers is taken and forced to walk in front of the army until it reaches its destination. The report also links to two videos posted on YouTube by an opposition fighter. One shows civilians walking in front of soldiers, and the other shows civilians walking in front of army vehicles [videos]. The officials use anyone they find, including women and children.

Last week, the UN condemned Syrian authorities [JURIST report] for human rights violations and violence against protestors and journalists in a resolution passed by the Human Rights Council [official website]. The resolution recommends that the government stop these actions, and says the UN will take appropriate action to bring those responsible to justice. Also last week, HRW condemned the opposition forces [JURIST report] in Syria for torturing and executing government supporters. Last month, Syrian officials reported that over 80 percent of voters approved a new constitution [JURIST report], which gives the president term limits and allows for a multi-party system. It also provides citizens with fundamental rights [JURIST report] such as freedom of speech, press, assembly and association. While some said approval of the constitution was a step in the right direction, other Western leaders dismissed it as a sham that will do little to stop violence in the country.