Armed Opposition groups have subjected detainees to ill-treatment and torture and committed extra-judicial or summary executions in the Syrian cities of Aleppo, Latakia and Idlib, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday following a visit to Aleppo governorate.
Torture and extra-judicial or summary executions of detainees in the context of an armed conflict are war crimes, and may constitute crimes against humanity if they are widespread and systematic, HRW said.
The New York-based rights organization said Opposition leaders told the group that they would respect human rights and that they had taken measures to curb the abuses, but it expressed serious concern about statements by some Opposition leaders indicating that they tolerate, or even condone, extra-judicial and summary executions. When confronted with evidence of extra-judicial executions, three Opposition leaders told HRW that those who killed deserved to be killed, and that only the worst criminals were being executed.
"Declarations by Opposition groups that they want to respect human rights are important, but the real test is how Opposition forces behave," said Nadim Houry, HRW Deputy Director for the Middle East. "Those assisting the Syrian Opposition have a particular responsibility to condemn abuses," he added.
Military and civilian Syrian Opposition leaders should immediately take all possible measures to end torture and executions by Opposition groups, including condemning and prohibiting such practices. They should investigate the abuses, hold those responsible to account in accordance with international human rights law, and invite recognized international detention monitors to visit all detention facilities under their control. Initiatives to have armed Opposition groups adopt and enforce codes of conduct that promote respect for human rights and international humanitarian law should be encouraged.
HRW presented its research findings and detailed recommendations in meetings with Opposition leaders in northern Aleppo in August and in a letter sent to several Opposition leaders on August 21. In a written response, the Military Council for the Aleppo Governorate said that, in light of the findings, it had reiterated its commitment to humanitarian law and human rights to Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups, that it was in the process of establishing special committees to review detention conditions and practices, and that it would hold responsible those who act "contrary to the guidelines."
Countries financing or supplying arms to Opposition groups should send a strong signal to the Opposition that they expect it to comply strictly with international human rights and humanitarian law, HRW said.
It documented more than a dozen extra-judicial and summary executions by Opposition forces. It quoted two FSA fighters from the Ansar Mohammed battalion in Latakia as saying that four people had been executed after the battalion stormed a police station in Haffa in June, two immediately and the others after a trial.
Six of 12 detainees interviewed by HRW in two Opposition-run detention facilities said that FSA fighters and officials in charge of detention facilities had tortured and mistreated them, in particular by beating them on the soles of their feet. Abuse appeared to be more prevalent during the initial stages of detention, before the detainees were transferred to civilian Opposition authorities.
by RTT Staff Writer
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