[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Wednesday accused government forces and rebels in Syria [JURIST news archive] of summarily capturing and killing [press release] opposition forces in violation of international humanitarian law. The AI report came after 19 bodies were found, including unarmed men and one child, in Damascus earlier this week. The bodies reportedly bore markings indicating that torture took place prior to their killing. Last Thursday Iraqi forces allegedly saw members of the Free Syria Army kill 22 Syrian armed forces. If confirmed, these killings could constitute war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law. According to AI’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director, Ann Harrison:
Amnesty International has been documenting unlawful killings carried out by state forces and government militias in Syria for months. Our field research in northern Syria found scores of mainly men and boys—most of whom who had not been engaged in hostilities—being summarily killed by government forces, and shabiha militia members, after prolonged shelling of city districts, towns and villages suspected of harbouring opposition fighters and supporters.
Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits murder and sentencing and carrying out executions without a judgment by a regularly constituted court.
Syria has recently been facing international criticism for human rights violations. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Monday expressed his concern that Syria could potentially use chemical weapons [JURIST report] in its ongoing conflict. Ban expressed his hopes that the international community would keep a close eye on the situation, even though the Syrian government has stated it would not use such weapons of mass destruction against its own citizens. Last Friday the UN Security Council extended the UN monitoring mission in Syria [JURIST report] for an additional 30 days. The mandate for the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) [official website], deployed as part of the peace plan of UN Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan, received a unanimous vote for a 30-day extension in the Security Council. AI and three other rights groups had urged the UN to renew the mandate [JURIST report], stating that human rights abuses in the country are on the rise and that the UN must continue to pressure the government to improve humanitarian conditions.