Arab League observer quits, slams Syria war crimes
DOHA - Agence France-Presse
This image made from amateur video and made available by Shaam News Network Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, purports to show protesters gathered as Arab League observers visit al-Hasaka, Syria. AP photoAn Arab League observer in unrest-swept Syria said Wednesday he has quit the mission, accusing the regime of committing a series of war crimes against its people and of duping his colleagues.
"I withdrew from the Arab observers mission because I found myself serving the regime, and not part of an independent observer group," Anwar Malek told the Doha-based news channel Al-Jazeera.
The Syrian regime is playing "dirty," charged the Algerian observer. "It even began killing its supporters to convince the Arab observers that it is carrying out its duties and to gain their sympathy." "The mission was a farce and the observers have been fooled. The regime orchestrated it and fabricated most of what we saw to stop the Arab League from taking action against the regime," Malek said.
"What I saw was a humanitarian disaster. The regime isn't committing one war crime but a series of crimes against its people," he said. "Children are killed and they are starved and terrorised." But an official at the Cairo-based Arab League dismissed Malek's accusations, saying they were all unfounded because he was bedridden and was never in the field.
"He was ill and bedridden at his Syria hotel. So how could he make those claims?" said the unnamed official.
The observer who said he spent 15 days in the flashpoint central city of Homs said it must be declared a "disaster" zone. "I saw charred and skinned bodies that had been tortured," said Malek.
Soldiers "attempting to flee or defect were executed," said Malek. "I saw three bodies of executed soldiers. They were shot from the back." In the interview, Malek said that there had been "an assassination attempt on Monday as we were being taken by car from Homs to Damascus" via the restive Baba Amro district where the mission came under gunfire.
Malek accused the Syrian regime of plotting the attack on the road "controlled by the army and pro-regime 'shabiha' militiamen." Also on Monday, two Kuwaiti army officers in the observer mission were "slightly hurt" in an attack by "unidentified protesters," the Gulf state's defence ministry has reported.
The observers were attacked while heading to the coastal city of Latakia, said the ministry.
Malek accused the Syrian regime of sending "spies and intelligence officers with our team to act as drivers and minders to get our information, and as soon as we left an area they attacked people." On the detainees, he said that "none of the real prisoners on the lists of detainees the opposition has provided us with have been released." The Arab League monitors have been in Syria since December 26 to oversee a deal to protect civilians in the country, where the regime has waged a bloody crackdown on opposition protesters since mid-March.
The death toll in Syria, which the United Nations says exceeds 5,000, has kept on climbing despite the presence of the observers with the UN announcing Tuesday that 400 people have been killed since the mission began.