(New York) -- Amnesty International said today that orders to clear the streets of Damascus issued by the Syrian authorities do not create the opportunity for a legal bombardment of residential areas as the organization once again reminded all parties in the conflict that they will be held criminally responsible for crimes against the civilian population.
"A pattern is emerging of orders being issued to civilians to move out of urban areas, raising fears that the authorities intend to increase the intensity of assault on neighborhoods they plan to attack," said Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty International who recently returned from a covert mission to Syria. "The fact that an order has been issued does not mean that the area has actually been cleared, which could result in more and more people coming under attack."
The Syrian armed forces and members of armed opposition groups such as the Free Syria Army (FSA) may be held criminally responsible if they fail to protect the civilian population caught up in this conflict, with resultant unlawful killings.
As members of the opposition become better-equipped with weapons and armaments, more civilians are being exposed to danger as fighting intensifies in populated urban areas.
"With the opposition's greater access to heavy weaponry comes increased responsibility," Rovera said. "The safety of civilians should never be an afterthought and both sides must recognize the increased risk of taking the fight into civilian areas. Members of the opposition are no more immune from these responsibilities than government forces."
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.