Bloodiest month in Syria - watchdog

2012-08-24 22:03
Syria rebel. (AP)

Syria rebel. (AP)

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Beirut - August is already the deadliest single month of the Syria conflict with over 4 000 people killed, a watchdog said on Friday, amid increasing macabre reports of dozens of bodies found bound and shot in the head.

At least 3 000 civilians and rebels have been killed in just over three weeks, in addition to 918 soldiers and 38 deserters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Around 24 500 people have been killed since the uprising erupted in March last year, according to the Britain-based watchdog, while the UN puts the death toll at more than 17 000.

Gruesome discoveries of bodies apparently summarily executed have also proliferated, with over 200 unidentified corpses found this month alone, notably in Damascus and the second city of Aleppo in the north, the Observatory said.

'Not normal'

On Thursday, more than 50 unidentified bodies were found across Syria, including 14 in a suburb of Damascus, and 21 in Aleppo city and province, the watchdog said. Most were found with their hands bound and shot in the head.

"What is going on is not normal, and it is multiplying," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

One week ago, opposition factions reported that 65 bodies were found scattered on a rubbish dump in a town near Damascus, claiming the victims had been bound, executed and set on fire by pro-government forces.

The Syrian Revolutionary Command Council issued a poor quality video which showed bodies scattered across rubbish heaps, their limbs splayed apart, and hands tied behind their backs. Many were charred beyond recognition.

It is impossible to verify the video.

Not new

"This is not a new pattern," Human Rights Watch Lebanon director Nadim Houry said.

"We first documented in April a pattern of mass executions in Idlib following the regime assault," he said, referring to an attack on the northwest province in which dozens of extrajudicial executions were reportedly carried out by the army.

"Now this is happening in more areas of Syria, in greater numbers."

Last week, a UN panel said that government forces and their militia allies had committed crimes against humanity during the conflict, while rebels were also found guilty of war crimes, though on a far smaller scale.

"Most of the summary executions seem to affect opposition supporters in opposition areas. Now we are also seeing executions committed by opposition forces. This is very worrying," Houry said.

ICC

HRW said such cases should be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to ensure justice is served.

"There has to be a very strong signal that these crimes will not go unpunished. The only way is if the Security Council speaks in one voice and refers the situation in Syria to the ICC," Houry said.

"What it shows is an increasing brutality in the conflict. With each of these mass executions it becomes harder to climb out of the abyss," he added.

Violence in recent weeks has been concentrated in Damascus and the commercial hub of Aleppo, with the conflict in bloody stalemate as the army fails to dislodge rebel fighters from their holdouts.

But while fighting in the capital has remained between the army and rebels, Abdel Rahman says that in Aleppo, pro-government tribes have taken up arms alongside regime forces, adding a dangerous new element to the conflict.

"The conflict in Aleppo looks like a civil war because there are pro-regime clans fighting against the rebels," he said.

Read more on:    syria  |  syria conflict  |  uprisings
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