Syrian rebels accused of abuses
NEW YORKAn international human rights group yesterday accused some in Syria’s armed opposition of carrying out serious abuses, including the kidnapping and torture of security forces.
The statement by Human Rights Watch (HRW) comes as Syria’s rebellion transforms into an insurgency, with army defectors and other government opponents taking up arms to drive out al-Assad. “The Syrian government’s brutal tactics cannot justify abuses by armed opposition groups,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW. “Opposition leaders should make it clear to their followers that they must not torture, kidnap, or execute under any circumstances.”
“Certain armed attacks by opposition groups were motivated by anti-Shia or anti-Alawite sentiments,” said the the New York-based group, in an open letter to the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC). “It is imperative for armed elements of the Syrian opposition to protect human rights,” Whitson said.
The group stressed that many of the anti-government groups reported to be carrying out abuses do not appear to be following orders from the SNC. But Syria’s opposition leadership has a responsibility to speak out and condemn such abuses, HRW said. The report cited witnesses who told HRW that armed groups identifying themselves with the opposition are kidnapping both civilians and members of the security forces.
An activist identified as Mazen said he learned that three people who worked with the government had been tortured to death in Idlib in northern Syria, an opposition stronghold. Another Syrian activist identified as Samih told HRW that members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) were kidnapping soldiers.