Donatella Rovera is Amnesty International’s senior crisis researcher with experience in the field in Syria.
“Why is the world not doing anything to help us? We demonstrated peacefully and from the first day we were beaten and shot at. Then the army came into our villages and fired at us with tanks and helicopters and burned and destroyed our homes. Is the world just going to keep watching and do nothing until we’ve all been killed?”
This was the recurring theme during my week in the Jabal al-Zawiyah area (northwest of Hama) investigating human rights abuses.
Everywhere I went people told me about relatives being dragged away and shot dead, and everywhere I saw houses and shops which had been deliberately burned down.
“These grave and large scale abuses – extrajudicial executions, deliberate and wanton destruction of property, indiscriminate attacks and torture of detainees – constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
Civilian casualties are rife and detainees are routinely tortured – in some cases to death – by the various Syrian security and military agencies. Indiscriminate shooting and shelling from army positions into villages continues.
These are not isolated incidents. They are part of a much wider pattern across the country, very similar to what I found further north, in Idlib city and surrounding areas, where I carried out field investigations at the end of last month.
It is shocking that to date the international community has spectacularly failed to take any effective steps to ensure protection for the spiralling numbers of ordinary people caught up in the violence or to hold the Syrian authorities accountable.
Such inaction has no doubt emboldened the perpetrators. It also fuels increasing resentment among the population who feel abandoned by the international community.