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For Immediate Release

Reports of Summary Executions by Syrian Rebel Forces Are of Grave Concern

Cambridge, Mass. - 11/05/2012

PHR expresses grave concern over reports that Syrian rebel forces allegedly summarily executed members of the government’s armed forces last week and captured the crime on videotape. Those reports followed the online posting of video on November 1 that seems to depict the shooting of unarmed men in Syria’s Idlib Province, by members of an unidentified group of fighters in the ongoing civil war.

Although the video’s authenticity has not been confirmed, it appears to show anti-government forces armed with automatic weapons piling men (some of whom served in Syria’s security forces, according to media reports) on top of one another inside what is reported to be a destroyed military checkpoint, kicking and stomping on some of the men repeatedly. Sounds of apparent gunshots can be heard as the camera shifts away from the sight of the fallen men.

A similar video posted online on July 31 also appears to show rebels executing government forces.

Previously, PHR has documented evidence of grave human rights violations committed on the part of Syrian government forces. The new video may be further evidence that both sides in the conflict are committing atrocities in violation of international humanitarian law. In particular, the video seems to demonstrate that PHR’s previous calls for all parties to the Syrian conflict to respect international humanitarian law have gone unheeded.

Summary execution is a gross violation of human rights, and a war crime when committed during armed conflict. Torture, beating, and ill treatment of persons in custody during war are prohibited by international law.

PHR calls on all parties to the Syrian conflict to immediately end all summary executions, investigate allegations of such crimes, and hold perpetrators accountable according to international legal standards. Crucially, it must be remembered that nongovernment forces and government forces alike are obligated to adhere to international humanitarian law at all times.

Moreover, PHR strongly condemns the murder, cruel treatment, and torture of all persons — civilian or otherwise — who are not actively engaged in fighting, noting that the summary execution or murder of soldiers who have laid down their arms and surrendered to enemy forces is explicitly prohibited by international humanitarian law. These absolute prohibitions especially apply, as the 1949 Geneva Conventions note, to those soldiers who have been placed hors de combat by detention or any other cause.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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