Conflict & Justice

Syrian military "ordered troops" to shoot unarmed protesters

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A picture taken on a tour organised by the Syrian Red Crescent shows Syrian soldiers deploying along the Syrian-Turkish border near the village of Khirbet al-Joz in the northern province of Idlib on June 29, 2011 as the number of Syrian refugees taking shelter in tent cities in Turkey decreased to 10,757 after several hundred people turned back home, Turkish officials said.

Credit:

LOUAI BESHARA

Human Rights Watch says it has identified 74 Syrian commanders and intelligence officials who ordered troops to indiscriminately shoot unarmed protesters, Radio France Internationale reported.

The claims were made in a report released Thursday, which is based on interviews with former soldiers who defected from the Syrian army.

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The report said the military officers “ordered, authorized, or condoned widespread killings, torture, and unlawful arrests."

Ole Solvang, a Human Rights Watch researcher involved in the report, told RFI that while the group had reached these conclusions before, the new evidence goes a step further.

“What is new in this report is the level of detail that the defectors have provided in terms of the structure of the security forces, how they operated and perhaps most importantly who were the commanders that gave the order to open fire on protesters to arrest thousands of people – and to subject them to torture.”

Solvang told RFI that the soldiers followed orders for fear of repercussions from the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Human Rights Watch is urging the United Nations Security Council to refer the case to the International Criminal Court.

This release of the report comes as activists say army defectors in Syria killed 27 soldiers and members of the security forces, Agence France Presse reported.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the soldiers died during three separate clashes in the southern province of Daraa, at dawn on Thursday.

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The group also said 21 civilians had been killed across the country on Wednesday, mainly in the north-western province of Idlib and in the cities of Homs and Damascus.

A civil disobedience campaign that started on Sunday is continuing across the country, AFP reported.

Meanwhile the UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday urged world powers to act "in the name of humanity" against the ongoing violence.