Amnesty: Foreign-Backed Rebels Committing War Crimes in Syria

Amnesty: Foreign-Backed Rebels Committing War Crimes in Syria
Tue Jul 5, 2016 13:55:40

Militant groups fighting against the government in Syria and receiving support from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and the United States have been committing “war crimes,” says Amnesty International, warning the foreign countries against backing such groups.

In a report on Tuesday, Amnesty named al-Nusra Front, which is the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, as well as the so-called Ahrar al-Sham, Nureddin Zinki, the Levant Front and Division 16 as the foreign-backed groups engaged in war crimes in Syria.

It said some of the groups in question “are believed to have the support of governments such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the US.”

Russia has long been attempting to put one of the groups, namely Ahrar al-Sham, on a United Nations (UN) terror list but vehement opposition by the US has made that prospect impossible. It was reported back in May that Labib al-Nahhas, who calls himself “a chief of foreign political relations at Ahrar al-Sham,” had been allowed to pay a visit to the US on a European passport.

All of the groups named by Amnesty in its Tuesday report are operating in northern Syria.

“In Aleppo and Idlib today, armed groups have free rein to commit war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law with impunity,” said Philip Luther, the head of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program.

“Many civilians live in constant fear of being abducted if they criticize the conduct of armed groups in power or fail to abide by the strict rules that some have imposed,” he said.

The report is based on 24 accounts of abduction by anti-government groups between 2012 and 2016 and another five cases of torture.

Amnesty said it documented violations in Idlib, which is held by al-Nusra and its allies, and Aleppo.

The London-based rights group called on world powers to “pressure armed groups to end such abuses and comply with the laws of war.”

The report said regional powers must also stop providing weapons or other forms of support to any factions involved in war crimes or other violations.

Back in June, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, whose country is carrying out an aerial campaign against militant groups in Syria, said the US had asked Moscow not to hit the positions of al-Nusra, the Syrian al-Qaeda branch.

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