Friday, May 4, 2012

The UN's Syria mission must monitor human rights abuses if it is to succeed

I heard accounts of executions by government forces in northern Syria – those responsible must be held accountable

Ole Solvang
(Researcher with the emergencies division and security adviser for Human Rights Watch), Thursday 3 May 2012

"Last week I visited several towns in Idlib, a governorate in northern Syria attacked by government forces during late March and early April, to interview those claiming to be victims and witnesses to government atrocities, on behalf of Human Rights Watch.

While there we documented accounts of executions of at least 35 people and the burning and destruction of hundreds of houses, shops, cars and other private property. The reported violations were shockingly brazen. In one street in Taftanaz, a small town of 15,000, pro-government militias appeared to have executed 16 people, most of them from the same family. In many cases the government forces seem to have deliberately burned and destroyed houses belonging to activists or opposition fighters as a form of punishment.

Shockingly, the way government forces operated indicates that they were not concerned at all that they might have to answer for their actions. In several cases witnesses told us they had recognised the soldiers who detained those who were later executed, as local agents for one of Syria's many security agencies.

But if the security forces counted on people being too afraid to tell their stories, they were mistaken......

....But any peace efforts will be seriously undermined if the government continues to blatantly commit abuses against its own population. Instead of scaring people into submission, the abuses committed during recent attacks in Idlib seem to have only strengthened opposition to the government.

That's why it is imperative that the UN mission currently deployed in Syria has a human rights monitoring component and that investigations and accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity are a key part of the solution to the crisis in the country. Only then will it be possible to talk about a solution to the crisis in Syria."

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