Syria: UN human rights chief urges probe into alleged execution of Government soldiers

Syria: UN human rights chief urges probe into alleged execution of Government soldiers

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High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. UN Photo/Violaine Martin

2 August 2013 – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay today urged an independent investigation into whether war crimes had been committed when armed opposition groups in Syria allegedly executed dozens of captured Government soldiers in the northern province of Aleppo last month.

“Based on the analysis by my team to date, we believe armed opposition groups in one incident – documented by a video – executed at least 30 individuals, the majority of whom appeared to be soldiers,” the High Commissioner said in a statement issued by her office.

Ms. Pillay said allegations of the killings after a battle in Khan Al-Assal, a district in rural Aleppo, are “deeply shocking” and reiterated the need to ensure that those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law on all sides of the conflict are made accountable.

Opposition forces in Khan Al-Assal purportedly filmed and posted on the internet between 22 and 26 July a series of videos, one apparently showing Government soldiers being ordered to lie on the ground. Another shows several bodies scattered along a wall and a number of bodies at an adjacent site, according to the Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR).

“These images, if verified, suggest that executions were committed in Khan Al-Assal,” Ms. Pillay said. “There needs to be a thorough independent investigation to establish whether war crimes have been committed. And those responsible for such crimes should be brought to justice.”

Another video shows bodies being collected by members of the Red Crescent and Free Syrian Army medical doctors, according to the Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR).

There were several other videos showing the bodies of dead Government soldiers scattered around town, most of whom appeared to have been shot in the head.

Meanwhile, OHCHR said is has received information from a reliable source that opposition fighters still hold government officers and soldiers captured in Khan Al-Assal.

“The High Commissioner reminds the parties to the conflict that all persons no longer taking part in hostilities, including captured and wounded soldiers, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely and in accordance with international law,” OHCHR said in today’s statement.

The UN human rights office said it continues to investigate the circumstances and scope of the killings – including reports that the overall number of dead is much higher. According to OHCHR, UN investigators are being allowed to visit Khan Al-Assal as part of a separate probe into three sites in the country to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use.

“Let me also renew my call to the Syrian Government to grant representatives from my Office and the Commission of Inquiry on Syria access to the country, in order to be able to investigate human rights violations, no matter who committed them,” Pillay said.

The events in Khan Al-Assal are further evidence that flagrant violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed by all parties have tragically become the norm in the Syrian conflict, stressed Ms. Pillay.

“Opposition forces should not think they are immune from prosecution. They must adhere to their responsibilities under international law,” Pillay said.

The Commission of Inquiry on Syria has previously highlighted the emerging patterns of summary execution and murder, perpetrated by anti-Government armed groups, as well as Government forces and affiliated militias.


Established by the UN Human Rights Council in August 2011, the Commission has been mandated to investigate and record all violations of international human rights law during the Syria conflict.

More than 100,000 people have been killed since fighting began between Syrian Government forces and opposition groups seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad. Almost 2 million have fled to neighbouring countries and a further 4 million have been internally displaced.



News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Syria: Head of independent UN panel appeals to Member States to end relentless carnage

More than 100 dead in Nangarhar battle

More than 100 dead in Nangarhar battle




JALALABAD (PAN): More than 100 people, including policemen, civilians and insurgents have been killed in a new wave of violence in eastern Nangarhar province, officials said Friday.


Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, the governor’s spokesman, told Pajhwok Afghan News 16 militants, including fighters from Pakistan’s Waziristan tribal region, were killed in a fierce clash in Sherzad district.


The firefight, lasting several hours, came after hundreds of guerrillas laid siege to tribal elder Haji Wardak’s residence in the Marakakhel area of the district.


Afghan army and police personnel rescued the elder’s family, while clashing with the assailants, the according to the spokesman, who said: “Sixteen Afghan and foreign rebels were killed.”


Hundreds of militants launched two ambushes on the security personnel as they returned from the site, Abdulzai said, 76 fighters were eliminated in the ensuing clashes.


“Two insurgents were captured alive along with their weapons,” he said, explaining several police pick-ups were damaged as a result of fighting.   


One security official, who did not want to be named, revealed 22 policemen were killed, 17 pickups destroyed and 10 cops seized by the assailants. Two senior officers of Khogyani district were also killed, he said.


Haji Wardak claimed his village had been under siege for the past two days, saying he had lost a son to the skirmishes. “We have received information about the killing of two rebel commanders and seven civilians.”


After the security forces left, the fighters returned to the village, the elder said. At least 40 attackers were killed and 60 others wounded in fire exchanges with villagers, he continued.  


Eng. Shukrullah, the district’s administrative head, said the casualties had been evacuated to the Khogyani Hospital. “You can approach the Khogyani district chief for further information,” he quipped, when asked for details.


Khogyani Hospital Director Dr. Noor Agha confirmed receiving the bodies of nine security personnel and six injured policemen. Some civilians with minor injuries were discharged after being administered first aid.


For his part, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed 84 police and army personnel were killed and 89 others wounded in the clashes. He said 16 Ranger pick-ups and 13 armoured vehicles were destroyed.



Terrorist Car-Bombing In Jalabad Kills 8 Children

At least eight children were killed and 21 other civilians wounded on Saturday when an explosive-laden vehicle was detonated near the Indian Consulate in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, officials said.

The car bomb was set off near a mosque leading to the Consulate. Most of the victims were children attending religious classes at the mosque, said provincial Police chief Gen. Sharif Amin.

A diplomat at the Indian Embassy in Kabul told TOLOnews that no Indian national was hurt in the attack.

The police chief added that they were alerted about such an attack on the Indian Consulate. The Afghan Security Forces have cordoned off the area and the victims have been rushed to the provincial hospital.

No group including the Taliban or the Haqqani Network has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The blast marks the first major attack since the start of Ramzan in Afghanistan.