CAIRO, December 15, 2011
CAIRO, December 15, 2011
Syrian military commanders have ordered troops to indiscriminately shoot at unarmed protesters, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Thursday based on interviews with former soldiers who defected.
The defectors named 74 military and intelligence officers “who allegedly ordered, authorised, or condoned widespread killings, torture, and unlawful arrests,” the rights group said in a statement.
Troops were ordered to stamp out the anti-government demonstrations “by all means necessary”, including lethal force, HRW said.
It said that about half of the defectors interviewed were given direct orders to fire on both protesters and bystanders.
“Defectors gave us names, ranks, and positions of those who gave the orders to shoot and kill,” Anna Neistat, HRW’s associate director for emergencies, said in a statement.
One defector identified as “Amjad” said he was deployed in Daraa in the south, and told HRW that he was ordered by his commander to fire on protesters on April 25.
“The commander of our regiment, Brigadier General Ramadan Ramadan… said, ‘Use heavy shooting. Nobody will ask you to explain.’ Normally we are supposed to save bullets, but this time he said, ‘Use as many bullets as you want’,” Amjad was quoted as saying in the report.
“And when somebody asked what we were supposed to shoot at, he said, ‘At anything in front of you.’ About 40 protesters were killed that day.”
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has blamed the bloodshed on armed rebels, and HRW said it had documented cases where anti-regime forces have attacked government soldiers.
But, the rights group said, most of the protests it documented were largely peaceful, adding that the Syrian military commanders responsible for abuses committed against demonstrators must be held accountable.
“Each and every official named in this report, up to the very highest levels of the Syrian government, should answer for their crimes against the Syrian people”, Neistat said, urging the UN Security Council to refer the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
UN rights chief Navi Pillay, who said on Tuesday that more than 5,000 people had been killed since anti-government demonstrations broke out in March, also urged the Security Council to refer the case to the world court.
Because Syria is not an ICC member, the court can only intervene after a Security Council referral, a move that would be subject to a veto by permanent members China and Damascus ally Russia.
The New York-based rights group said its report, “By All Means Necessary,” was based on interviews with more than 60 Syrian former soldiers.
Photo by: Yin Bogu/Xinhua-Landov