Sunday, March 25, 2012

Syria: Local Residents Used as Human Shields

Reports of Residents Forced to March in Front of Soldiers in Idlib

March 25, 2012

"(Antakya, Turkey) – Syrian government forces have endangered local residents by forcing them to march in front of the army during recent arrest operations, troop movements, and attacks on towns and villages in northern Syria, Human Rights Watch said today.

Witnesses from the towns of al-Janoudyah, Kafr Nabl, Kafr Rouma, and Ayn Larouz in the Idlib governorate in northern Syria told Human Rights Watch that they saw the army and pro-government armed men, referred to locally as shabeeha, force people to march in front of the advancing army during the March 2012 offensive to retake control of areas that had fallen into the hands of the opposition. From the circumstances of these incidents, it was clear to the witnesses that the purpose of this was to protect the army from attack.

“By using civilians as human shields, the Syrian army is showing blatant disregard for their safety,” said Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Syrian army should immediately stop this abhorrent practice.”

Kafr Nabl

“Abdullah,” a resident of Kafr Nabl, a town in the Jabal al-Zawiya region, told Human Rights Watch that the army forced him and several others to walk in front of their armored personnel carriers when they were conducting a search for wanted opposition activists on March 2. Like most of those interviewed he asked not to use his real name for fear of reprisals. He said.......

Under human rights law, state authorities who deliberately place individuals at grave risk to their life are violating their right to life, and such acts may also constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. In situations of armed conflict in which international humanitarian law applies, "human shielding" is prohibited.

The Syrian army’s use of human shields is yet another reason why the UN Security Council should refer Syria to the International Criminal Court” Solvang said. “Somebody should be made to answer for these violations.”"

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