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Syria: End Opposition Use of Torture, Executions
Human Rights Watch
17 September 2012
 
Armed opposition groups have subjected detainees to ill-treatment and torture and committed extrajudicial or summary executions in Aleppo, Latakia, and Idlib, Human Rights Watch said today following a visit to Aleppo governorate. Torture and extrajudicial 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.
 
Opposition leaders told Human Rights Watch that they will respect human rights and that they have taken measures to curb the abuses, but Human Rights Watch expressed serious concern about statements by some opposition leaders indicating that they tolerate, or even condone, extrajudicial and summary executions. When confronted with evidence of extrajudicial executions, three opposition leaders told Human Rights Watch that those who killed deserved to be killed, and that only the worst criminals were being executed. (…)
 
Military and civilian Syrian opposition leaders should immediately take all possible measures to end the use of torture and executions by opposition groups, including condemning and prohibiting such practices, Human Rights Watch said. 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. (…)
 
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, Human Rights Watch said. (…)
 
Six of 12 detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch 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.
 
Because of inconsistencies in their accounts and visible injuries consistent with torture, Human Rights Watch has reason to believe that FSA fighters and prison authorities had also tortured or mistreated at least some of the six detainees who denied during their interviews that they had been abused. (…)
 
The head of the Aleppo Governorate Revolutionary Council told Human Rights Watch that the authorities do not execute or torture detainees, but that beating detainees on the soles of the feet was “permissible” because it did not cause injuries. When Human Rights Watch explained that beating on the soles of the feet constitutes torture and is unlawful according to international law, he said that he would provide new instructions to FSA fighters and those in charge of detention facilities that such beating was not permitted. (…)
 
The United Nations Security Council should refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which would have jurisdiction to investigate violations by both government and opposition forces, Human Rights Watch said. Russia and China should support such a referral.
 
“An ICC referral would give the ICC jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed by both the government and the opposition,” Houry said. “This is one measure that all Security Council members, including Russia, should find it easy to agree on if they are truly concerned about the violations committed in Syria.” (...)
 
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