AntiWar.com & The Associated Press & Sky News – 2016-07-05 01:22:19
US-Backed Syrian Rebels Accused of Torture, Summary Executions
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(July 4, 2016) — While most of the reports on war crimes in Syria center on either ISIS or the Syrian government, they are by no means the only ones committing such crimes, as a new report from Amnesty International details “chilling” abuses committed by a number of different groups, including several US-backed rebel factions.
The report singles out three US-backed groups, the Nour al-Din Zanki Movement, the Levant Front, and the Free Syrian Army’s 16th Division, as being involved in torture and abuse of minorities and peaceful activists, along with carrying out summary executions of captured pro-government fighters.
The details of the abuses greatly resemble those the US has railed against ISIS over, accused of kidnapping Christian priests, killing people accused of being gay, and torturing journalists for reporting in ways seen unfriendly to their factions.
Amnesty’s Middle East Director Philip Luther noted that the civilians had initially “welcomed an escape from brutal Syrian government rule,” but that those hopes for a better future quickly failed as the rebels started adopting the exact same policies of abuse.
The US often brags about how well it vets the various rebel factions it chooses to subsidize, but more than once those groups have ended up siding with al-Qaeda or ISIS when push comes to shove, and this reports suggests that even the groups that have managed to remain in America’s pocket are war criminals.
This reflects what many analysts have said about the US arms smuggling and subsidy programs for years, that “moderate” armed factions are scarcer than hen’s teeth in Syria, and that the administration has been backing some very unseemly groups and passing them off as “moderates.”
Amnesty Documents ‘Chilling’ Abuses by Armed Groups in Syria
The Associated Press
BEIRUT (July 4, 2016) — Some Syrian opposition groups have adopted methods of abuse similar to those employed by the government of President Bashar Assad, Amnesty International said in a report Tuesday, in which it documented a “chilling” wave of torture, abductions and summary killings in insurgent-controlled areas.
The report is based on interviews with some 70 individuals living or working in the northern provinces of Idlib and parts of Aleppo, areas controlled by insurgents.
The abuses were committed over four years by five armed groups, including some backed by the U.S and other regional powers, and al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, Amnesty said.
“While some civilians in areas controlled by armed opposition groups may at first have welcomed an escape from brutal Syrian government rule, hopes that these armed groups would respect rights have faded as they have increasingly taken the law into their own hands and committed serious abuses,” said Philip Luther, director of Amnesty’s Middle East program.
The report documents at least 24 abductions of activists, ethnic and religious minorities, as well as three children, two of whom remain missing as of last week.
Amnesty also documented summary killings by gunfire, some in public, of pro-government fighters, which it said constitute war crimes. It called on international backers to cease arms transfers to groups implicated in abuse.
Some people were abducted because of their criticism of the armed groups or simply for playing music. Media activists reported receiving threats for critical reporting. Some said they were suspended for hours from their wrists or were squeezed into a tire with their hands bound behind their backs and beaten, methods of torture also used by the Syrian government.
One of the groups, Ahrar al-Sham, said in a letter that it would like to meet with Amnesty to clarify the issues. It did not respond to the allegations.
US-backed Rebels Behind Killings: Report
(July 5, 2016) — Amnesty International says Syrian rebel groups believed to be backed by the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are responsible for abductions, torture and summary killings in north and north-western Syria.
The London-based rights group documented 24 cases of abduction by armed groups in Aleppo and Idlib provinces between 2012 and 2016.
Victims included peaceful activists and children, as well as minorities targeted solely because of their religion, Amnesty said.
Amnesty quoted activists as saying that the Nour al-Din Zanki Movement and Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate, the al-Nusra Front, also used the same forms of torture frequently reported to have been practised by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Among the rebel groups singled out for committing the abuses are the Nour al-Din Zanki Movement, the Levant Front, the 16th Division, hardline Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham, and al-Nusra.
The US-based Institute for the Study of War, in a February report on opposition groups in Aleppo, said that the first three were current or former recipients of US support.
Amnesty said that members of the Kurdish minority in Sheikh Maqsoud, an Aleppo district controlled by Kurdish forces, as well as Christian priests were targeted in abductions by rebel groups.
The rights group also charged that sharia, or Islamic law, courts set up to administer justice in rebel-held areas had carried out ‘summary killings’.
‘Among those killed have been civilians, including a 17-year-old boy accused of being gay and a woman accused of adultery, as well as captured members of Syrian government forces, of pro-government shabiha militias,’ it said.
‘While some civilians in areas controlled by armed opposition groups may at first have welcomed an escape from brutal Syrian government rule, hopes that these armed groups would respect rights have faded as they have increasingly taken the law into their own hands and committed serious abuses,’ said Philip Luther, director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program.
Luther demanded that countries involved in negotiations over Syria ‘must pressure armed groups to end such abuses and comply with the laws of war’.
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