[JURIST] Syrian armed forces are continuing to engage in a pattern of abuses against and deliberate killings of civilians, according to an Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] report [text, PDF] released Thursday. The 70-page report was based on interviews conducted in 23 towns and villages in the Aleppo and Idlib governorates. AI found new evidence of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the Syrian army between February and late May. Although the research was conducted only in few villages and towns, AI concluded that the violence was not isolated but was prevalent throughout the country. Some were killed by heavy artillery and tanks but most of the civilians were executed by men who are believed to be part of the military. According to AI, the violence against civilians escalated in the wake of increased opposition against government forces. Frequency and brutality against civilians who are accused of supporting the opposition groups reportedly rose in an attempt to suppress them:
The army crackdown has been targeting towns and villages seen as opposition strongholds. In most of the places visited by Amnesty International, soldiers had deliberately and unlawfully killed (extrajudicially executed) civilians not involved in any fighting, as well as armed opposition fighters who had been captured or were otherwise hors de combat—having surrendered or been captured or wounded. They had deliberately, wantonly and systematically destroyed homes, shops, medical facilities and other property. They had indiscriminately fired bullets and shells in civilian residential areas. They had prevented injured people from receiving life-saving medical treatment. They had tortured most of those they detained – sometimes to death – and subjected others to enforced disappearance.
Syria has been blocking access to independent international humanitarian and human rights organizations as well as international media. AI urged the Syrian government to end all extrajudicial executions, release all who were arbitrarily arrested, cooperate with the UN observer mission and allow access to the various international human rights groups. AI also called on the UN Security Council [official website] to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website], impose an arms embargo on Syria to stop the flow of weapons to the Syrian government and ensure that human rights monitors have the adequate resources to protects civilians and victims of violence.
Earlier this month, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic had already voiced his concern [JURIST report] that the violence in Syria amounts to crimes against humanity. He addressed the General Assembly on behalf of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] to urge the international community to convince both the Syrian government and the armed forces to cease their violence and ongoing human rights violations. Syria has been attacked for its human rights violations especially in the wake of last month’s Houla incident that killed more than 100 people, including women and children. Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Council [official website] approved [JURIST report] in a 41-3 vote a resolution blaming “pro-regime elements” and government troops for the massacre in Houla. On the same day, the Syrian government released [JURIST report] more than 500 prisoners detained during pro-democracy demonstrations. The release of “arbitrarily detained persons” was a key point in the six-point plan which was supposed to begin on April 12 but has not yet been successfully executed despite a resolution approved [JURIST report] by the UN Security Council to send 300 unarmed soldiers and other civilian aid for 90 days to supervise the implementation of the plan. In May, a three-member Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria released a report claiming that the Syrian security forces are predominantly responsible for the violence in the country.