Desperate Reprisals: Documenting the Syrian Regime's Abuses

June 20, 2012


The Assad regime in Syria has done everything it can to prevent the world from knowing what it is doing to its people: International media is blocked access to crisis points, international organizations are prevented from doing their jobs and human rights organizations are denied entry.

When details come out, the regime pulls out another old trick of claiming the victims are the transgressors and the government is the victim of terrorists.

The anecdote to this is documentation, and this is where Amnesty International can do valuable work.  Thursday, in a new 70-page report, Deadly Reprisals, the organization provides fresh evidence of widespread as well as systematic violations, including crimes against humanity and war crimes, being perpetrated as part of state policy to exact revenge against communities suspected of supporting the opposition and to intimidate people into submission.

They killed my sons, the dearest things I had, and then they desecrated their bodies by setting them on fire. How can a mother endure such pain?
“This disturbing new evidence of an organized pattern of grave abuses highlights the pressing need for decisive international action to stem the tide of increasingly widespread attacks against the civilian population, including crimes against humanity and war crimes, committed by government forces and militias with utter impunity,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s senior crisis adviser, who recently spent several weeks investigating human rights violations in northern Syria.

Although not granted official entry by Syrian officials, Rovera and other Amnesty International researchers were able to investigate the crisis in northern Syria, visiting 23 towns and villages in Aleppo and Idilb governorates. The report recorded hundreds of men, women and children whose stories cannot be denied, glossed over or explained away.  These are stories of relatives being dragged away and shot dead by soldiers.

The evidence collected in the report points to one conclusion: Syrian government forces and militias are responsible for grave human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law amounting to crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The report is accompanied with an action asking US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to press the UN Security Council to refer the crisis to the International Criminal Court, as well as a freeze on assets of senior Syrian officials and implementation of an effective arms embargo.  Take action here.

Along with the report, an Amnesty International video features the faces of Syria’s victims. See these images and hear their stories, the most important reminder that as politicians have dithered, a human rights crisis has unfolded in this ancient country.