Syria: Fresh evidence of armed forces’ ongoing crimes against humanity

The shocking escalation in unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary detention and the wanton destruction of homes in Syria demonstrates just how urgent the need for decisive international action to stem the tide of increasingly widespread attacks on civilians by government forces and militias which act with utter impunity, Amnesty International said in a new report today.

The 70-page report Deadly Reprisals, provides fresh evidence of widespread as well as systematic violations, including crimes against humanity and war crimes, being perpetrated as part of state policy to exact revenge against communities suspected of supporting the opposition and to intimidate people into submission.

“This disturbing new evidence of an organized pattern of grave abuses highlights the pressing need for decisive international action to stem the tide of increasingly widespread attacks against the civilian population, including crimes against humanity and war crimes, committed by government forces and militias with utter impunity,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Adviser, who recently spent several weeks investigating human rights violations in northern Syria.

“For more than a year the UN Security Council has dithered, while a human rights crisis unfolded in Syria. It must now break the impasse and take concrete action to end to these violations and to hold to account those responsible.”

Although not granted official permission by the Syrian authorities to enter the country, Amnesty International was able to investigate the situation on the ground in northern Syria, and has concluded that Syrian government forces and militias are responsible for grave human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law amounting to crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Amnesty International visited 23 towns and villages in the Aleppo and Idlib governorates, including areas where Syrian government forces launched large scale attacks including during negotiations over the implementation of the UN-Arab League-sponsored six-point ceasefire agreement in March/April.

In every town and village visited grieving families described to Amnesty International how their relatives – young and old and including children – were dragged away and shot dead by soldiers – who in some cases then set the victims’ bodies on fire.

Soldiers and shabiha militias burned down homes and properties and fired indiscriminately into residential areas, killing and injuring civilian bystanders. Those who were arrested, including the sick and elderly, were routinely tortured, sometimes to death. Many have been subjected to enforced disappearance; their fate remains unknown.

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4 thoughts on “Syria: Fresh evidence of armed forces’ ongoing crimes against humanity

  1. dickerson3870

    RE: “The shocking escalation in unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary detention and the wanton destruction of homes in Syria demonstrates just how urgent the need for decisive international action. . .” ~ Amnesty International

    MY COMMENT: Unfortunately, the U.S. and its NATO allies cannot be trusted to intervene in a responsible manner. If that was not clear before the recent Libya intervention, it was certainly made clear by the West’s flagrant, grotesque abuse* of the UN Security Council resolution authorizing member states to establish and enforce a no-fly zone over Libya in order to instead pursue their own regime change agenda.
    Of course, since Libya had the highest Human Development Index (HDI) in Africa, the fourth highest GDP (PPP) per capita in Africa, and the 10th-largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world; it was obviously ripe for plunder by the U.S. and its NATO partners.

    * BRANDEIS ON ‘BLOWBACK’: Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis elaborated in Olmstead v. United States (1928):

    “In a government of law, the existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.”

  2. Paul Woodward

    Amnesty isn’t calling for intervention beyond the level of an arms embargo and in the absence of an international embargo calls on Russia and China not to arm the Syrian government. (See pages 61-63 of their report for more details.) They also make this frankly fanciful request: “that any country considering supplying arms to the armed opposition should have in place the necessary mechanisms to ensure the material supplied is not used to commit human rights abuses and/or war crimes.” And what kind of mechanisms might those be?

    What Amnesty and other human rights organizations can effectively do is help make sure that Syria is not ignored by the media and thus remains a focus of international attention and thus that the Assad regime does not feel it can operate with complete impunity. That said, I wouldn’t overstate the value of that attention, least of all to the average Syrian.

  3. dickerson3870

    RE: “Unfortunately, the U.S. and its NATO allies cannot be trusted to intervene [in Syria] in a responsible manner.” ~ me, above

    SEE: “The imperial agenda of the US’s ‘Africa Command’ marches on”, by Dan Glazebrook,, 6/14/12
    With mission accomplished in Libya, Africom now has few obstacles to its military ambitions on the continent

    (excerpt) . . . Libya was a test case. The first war actually commanded by Africom, it proved remarkably successful – a significant regional power was destroyed without the loss of a single US or European soldier. But the significance of this war for Africom went much deeper than that for, in taking out Muammar Gaddafi, Africom had actually eliminated the project’s fiercest adversary.
    Gaddafi ended his political life as a dedicated pan-Africanist and, whatever one thought of the man, it is clear that his vision for Africa was very different from that of the subordinate supplier of cheap labour and raw materials that Africom was created to maintain.*
    He was not only the driving force behind the creation of the African Union in 2002, but had also served as its elected head, and made Libya its biggest financial donor. To the dismay of some of his African colleagues, he used his time as leader to push for a “United States of Africa”, with a single currency, single army and single passport. More concretely, Gaddafi’s Libya had an estimated $150bn worth of investment in Africa – often in social infrastructure and development projects, and this largesse bought him many friends, particularly in the smaller nations. As long as Gaddafi retained this level of influence in Africa, Africom was going to founder.
    Since his removal, however, the organisation has been rolling full steam ahead.
    It is no coincidence that within months of the fall of Tripoli – and in the same month as Gaddafi’s execution – President Obama announced the deployment of 100 US special forces to four different African countries, including Uganda. . .


    Something is very rotten, and it ain’t in the state of Denmark!

  4. Paul Woodward

    Do you know what US/NATO intervention in Syria actually looks like? Sending in Kofi Annan to give Bashar a darned good finger-wagging. If that finger wags any harder, I dare say the region might fall apart.

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