Syria: Executions, Hostage Taking by Rebels

Planned Attacks on Civilians Constitute Crimes Against Humanity – Published on Human Rights Watch HRW, Oct 11, 2013.

(New York) – Armed opposition groups in Syria killed at least 190 civilians and seized over 200 as hostages during a military offensive that began in rural Latakia governorate on August 4, 2013, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. At least 67 of the victims were executed or unlawfully killed in the operation around pro-government Alawite villages.  

The 105-page report, “You Can Still See Their Blood: Executions, Indiscriminate Shootings, and Hostage Taking by Opposition Forces in Latakia Countryside,” presents evidence that the civilians were killed on August 4, the first day of the operation. Two opposition groups that took part in the offensive, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham and Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, are still holding the hostages, the vast majority women and children. The findings strongly suggest that the killings, hostage taking, and other abuses rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said … //

… included video, 4.38 min … //

… Recommendations for Neighboring and Other Concerned Governments:

All concerned governments with influence over these armed opposition groups should press them to end deliberate, indiscriminate, and disproportionate attacks on civilians, Human Rights Watch said. In addition, all governments, companies, and individuals should immediately stop selling or supplying weapons, ammunition, materiel, and funds to these groups, given the compelling evidence that they have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Support for these five groups should continue to be withheld until the groups stop committing these crimes and those responsible are fully and appropriately held to account. Anyone providing or selling arms and military assistance to the groups may be complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Governments should also not permit the use of their national territory for shipment of arms, ammunition, and other materiel to these groups, Human Rights Watch said. According to Syrian security officials, media reports, Western diplomats, and observations by journalists and humanitarian workers, foreign fighters in these groups enter Syria from Turkey, from which they also smuggle their weapons and obtain money and other supplies, and to which they retreat for medical treatment.

Turkey should increase border patrols and prevent the entry of fighters and arms for groups credibly implicated in systematic human rights violations. Turkey should also investigate and prosecute, under the principle of universal jurisdiction and in accordance with national laws, anyone in Turkey suspected of committing, being complicit in, or having command responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The UN Security Council and Turkey’s allies should call on Turkey in particular to do more to verify that no arms are passing through Turkey to abusive groups, Human Rights Watch said.

Public statements by fundraisers and financiers, opposition activists, and opposition fighters reveal that at least some of the funding for the Latakia operation came from individuals residing in Kuwait and other Gulf countries. Governments should restrict money transfers from Gulf residents to groups credibly implicated in systematic human rights abuses.

Universal jurisdiction laws also are a key backstop against impunity for heinous abuses, especially when no other viable justice options exist, Human Rights Watch said. Countries, such as Turkey should investigate people credibly linked to atrocities in Syria and avoid being a safe haven for human rights abusers.

(full long text and video).

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