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Syria: A Priority for New Opposition Group
Human Rights Watch
13 November 2012
Syria’s newly created opposition front should send a clear message to opposition fighters that they must adhere to the laws of war and human rights law, and that violators will be held accountable. 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.
Syrian opposition factions signed an agreement in Qatar on November 11, 2012, to create a new umbrella grouping, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (the National Coalition). The unity accord states that the National Coalition “supports the unification of the revolutionary military councils under the leadership of a supreme military council,” will establish a “national judicial commission,” and will “form a provincial government after gaining international recognition.” The accord will come into force once it has been ratified by its members.
“Ending abuses by armed members of the opposition should be a top priority for the new coalition,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “It should make a public commitment to uphold international norms, vet armed groups for violations before providing them support, and hold violators to account.”
Human Rights Watch has documented more than a dozen extrajudicial and summary executions by opposition forces and torture and mistreatment in opposition-run detention facilities. Opposition leaders have told Human Rights Watch that they will respect human rights and that they have taken measures to curb the abuses, but there is no evidence that they have taken steps to end the abuses or hold those responsible for abuses accountable. (…)
Everyone in the custody of the opposition Free Syrian Army and other opposition forces, including members of the Syrian security forces and shabeeha, should be treated humanely in accordance with international humanitarian law and human rights standards, Human Rights Watch said.(…)
All countries providing diplomatic, financial, and other support to the National Coalition should encourage it to make adherence to the laws of war and human rights law a priority, Human Rights Watch said. 
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. 
Military and civilian Syrian opposition leaders should investigate 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.
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly documented and condemned widespread violations by Syrian government security forces and officials, including extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings of civilians, enforced disappearances, use of torture, and arbitrary detentions. Human Rights Watch has concluded that government forces have committed crimes against humanity. (…)


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