Friday 22 November 2019

Syrian rebels are accused of executing prisoners

The bullet-riddled
body of a Shabiha militiaman lies in another part of the city
The bullet-riddled body of a Shabiha militiaman lies in another part of the city

Damien McElroy in Marea, Aleppo

HUMAN rights groups have accused Syrian rebels of war crimes for carrying out summary executions and imposing arbitrary justice on hundreds of regime detainees in makeshift prisons.

Blindfolded and bearing the welts of beatings, captured regime loyalists can suffer rough treatment at rebel hands from the moment they are taken in for questioning.

If they are not released or shot, they are taken to holding centres where they face a rudimentary system of judgment.

Experts complain that the rebels have violated the rules set out in the Geneva Convention to protect prisoners of war.

"We are telling the Syrian opposition that the Geneva Conventions cover them and they will be held responsible for what they do and what they fail to prevent," said Kristyan Benedict, a Syrian specialist for Amnesty International.

"We have seen video of people being executed with machine guns -- that's a war crime."

The accusations came as British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain would give £5m (€6.37m) of assistance directly to the opposition, including fighters. The aid will include radios and medical supplies but no weapons.

Human Rights Watch has warned about the future of those detained in Syria fighting the opposition forces.

At the biggest detention facility north of Aleppo, more than 120 men are being held in a girls' secondary school where the fledgling authorities claim they will be tried before Islamic courts.

Lashes

Anna Neistat, a researcher who has interviewed the captives and the rebels-turned-jailers, said an entirely new form of justice, heavily reliant on Islamic law, was emerging in the area.

"They are clear that they are applying Islamic law. The rebels' legal representatives mentioned that those that are convicted face fines, imprisonment and lashes," said Ms Neistat, who is working in rebel-held areas of northern Syria.

"But they also say that it's a transitional moment and a great deal remains to be worked out."

Two prisoners interviewed yesterday in the presence of the manager of the impromptu prison -- who used the name Jumbo -- admitted being members of the fanatically pro-regime Shabiha militia.

Ali Hussein Mowas, who said he was arrested in the Aleppo district of Tarek al-Bab, said he had killed a demonstrator late last year for a bonus of 1,000 Syrian pounds (€102).

He said he used the money to buy "wash", a drug that "cleaned my brain".

"I made mistakes and regret them and I am happy with any kind of justice I face," he said.

The prison manager said he did not allow guards to abuse prisoners, but conceded that beatings to the feet were a permissible form of punishment.

"We are not kidnapping people. We are arresting people, holding them and even letting them talk to their families by phone," said Jumbo. "It is not about punishing them."

Human Rights Watch is investigating the case of a member of the Shabiha arrested near Aleppo who was later killed at the funeral of rebel fighters.

"We have reasonable grounds to believe the prisoner was executed," said Ms Neistat. "Human Rights Watch condemned the execution, saying extrajudicial killings of captured combatants are prohibited under international humanitarian law."

Videos on the internet have shown the execution of Shabiha. The Free Syrian Army, which is spearheading the assault on regime forces in Aleppo, said it would put those fighters responsible on trial for exceeding their orders. (© The Daily Telegraph)

Irish Independent

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