All-Out Repression: Purging Dissent in Aleppo, Syria

Syrian opposition fighter takes aim in Aleppo on July 25, 2012 (BULENT KILIC/AFP/GettyImages)
July 31, 2012

All-Out Repression: Purging Dissent in Aleppo, Syria

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The organization is also calling on any country considering supplying arms to the armed opposition to have in place the necessary mechanisms to ensure the material supplied is not used to commit human rights abuses and/or war crimes.


Since the onset of the unrest in 2011, Amnesty International – like other international human rights organizations – had not been able to conduct field research in Syria as it was effectively barred from entering the country by the government. The increasing gravity of the human rights crisis in Syria and the refusal of the government to countenance any form of outside verification led the organization to take the decision to enter Syria to carry out firsthand investigations without the authorization of the Syrian government. Between mid-April and the end of May 2012, Amnesty International conducted on-site investigations in the Aleppo and Idlib governorates in the north-west of the country.

In the city of Aleppo at the end of May an Amnesty International delegate observed peaceful demonstrations and funeral processions where members of the security forces and of statearmed militias repeatedly fired live rounds at demonstrators; visited secret field hospitals where injured protesters were receiving emergency medical treatment; interviewed witnesses, protesters who had been shot and injured by security forces during demonstrations, families of those killed, victims of torture and arbitrary detention, as well as relatives of people who have disappeared into secret detention since their arrest, medical professional involved in providing medical care to victims, and volunteers providing aid to people displaced by the conflict. The organization’s delegate also viewed hours of footage filmed by local activists of the demonstrations during which protesters and bystanders were killed and injured. Since leaving the country, the organization has remained in daily contact with activists in the city and has continued to receive and follow up information about ongoing human rights

In Aleppo city, all of those interviewed expressed fear of possible reprisals, and for this reason, the names of victims (except for the dead and some of the disappeared) and witnesses, and other identifying details, have been withheld.

The findings substantiate those of other bodies, such as the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria and the UN Committee against Torture, as well as the evidence collected by Amnesty International during research missions to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, where the organization interviewed Syrians who have fled their country since the violent repression of the unrest began.

While the field research in the Aleppo and Idlib governorates conducted between mid-April and the end of May 2012 provided further evidence of a plethora of abuses, this report focuses only on abuses committed by security forces and militias in the city of Aleppo in a bid to suppress dissent in the city. The findings of Amnesty International’s visit to other parts of northern Syria are contained in a report, Deadly Reprisals – deliberate killings and other abuses by Syria’s armed forces, published on 14 June 2012.

The vast majority of the human rights abuses documented by Amnesty International since the start of protests in February 2011, including those in this report, have been committed by the state’s security and armed forces, and shabiha militias. However, there are growing numbers of reports of abuses committed by armed opposition groups, including the torture and killing of captured soldiers and shabiha as well as the kidnapping and killing of people known or suspected to support or work with the government and its forces and militias. Amnesty International condemns without reservation such abuses and calls on the leadership of all armed opposition groups in Syria to publicly state that such acts are prohibited and to do all within their power to ensure that opposition forces put an immediate end to such abuses.

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