Syrian armed groups may be committing war crimes, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said [text] Monday, stating that the practice of caging captured soldiers and civilians constitutes hostage-taking and an outrage against their personal dignity. A video that surfaced Sunday shows cages holding multiple people being transported by trucks. According to HRW, the armed groups’ intent is to place the cages in strategic areas “to deter indiscriminate government” and Russian air-force attacks. Nadim Houry, HRW’s deputy Middle East director, stated:
Nothing can justify caging people and intentionally putting them in harm’s way, even if the purpose is to stop indiscriminate government attacks. Ending Syria’s downward spiral requires international backers of armed groups as well as the government to make protecting civilians a top priority.
These actions come after after government attacks on a marketplace in Douma on October 30, which reportedly resulted in more than 70 deaths and 550 injuries, according to Doctors Without Borders.
The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has been ongoing since 2011 when opposition groups first began protesting the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and the increasingly bloody nature of the conflict has put pressure on the international community to intervene. In October France opened a torture investigation [JURIST report] into the actions of the Syrian government under Assad in Syrian detention facilities. Additionally, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF] in October detailing the possibility of war crimes [JURIST report] in Syria. The AI report criticized the Syrian government by stating that “they have maintained unlawful sieges, restricted humanitarian assistance deliveries, deliberately attacked civilians, and carried out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, arbitrary detentions, abductions and enforced disappearances.”