Syrian War Criminals Must Be Held Accountable

Washington, D.C. – Today, in response to reports that a video has surfaced that allegedly shows anti-government fighters in Syria executing captured soldiers, Human Rights First is calling for an investigation into the legitimacy of the tape and the illegal activity it depicts. The human rights organization is also calling for those found to have committed war crimes in Syria, in this instance and in other circumstances, to be held accountable for those crimes. “The Geneva Conventions leave no doubt that it is a war crime to kill a captured enemy and that those responsible for such acts must be brought to justice,” said Human Rights First’s Sadia Hameed. “As the opposition in Syria becomes increasingly organized, its leaders are increasingly responsible to instill the principles and rules of the Geneva Conventions in their fighters. They are also increasingly liable for their failure to do so. If the opposition hopes to gain the legitimacy it craves, it must demonstrate its willingness and ability to respect fundamental standards of humanity.” Human Rights First notes that the crimes allegedly depicted in this tape add to a string of war crimes that have taken place in Syria during the past 19 months. For example, the regime of Bashar al Assad has reacted brutally to suppress civilian protests including the indiscriminate shelling of civilian neighborhoods, use of attack helicopters to gun down civilians, opening sniper fire on crowds of peaceful protestors, committing summary executions and subjecting opposition activists to indefinite detention and torture. In September, Human Rights First pressed the U.N. Human Rights Council to use the findings of its recent investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria to task the U.N. National Security Council for referral to the International Criminal Court. “With a death toll now well over 30,000 and attacks continuing, the international community must ensure that these crimes do not go unpunished,” added Hameed. “The International Criminal Court has the authority to investigate and bring to justice perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but these cases must be referred to the court by the U.N. Security Council.”


Published on November 2, 2012


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