Syria`s opposition committing abuses: Rights group
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Last Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 23:44
Beirut: Syria's armed opposition is carrying out serious human rights abuses, including the kidnapping, torture and execution of security force members and government supporters, a rights group said on Tuesday.

"The Syrian government's brutal tactics cannot justify abuses by armed opposition groups," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of Human Rights Watch (HRW).

"Opposition leaders should make it clear to their followers that they must not torture, kidnap, or execute under any circumstances."

The New York-based watchdog said that while the year-old revolt in Syria had started as a largely peaceful uprising, it had transformed into an armed insurgency, especially since early February, when the government launched large-scale attacks against opposition strongholds throughout the country.

The rights group said it had documented cases of kidnappings, torture and executions by opposition groups, often with a sectarian motive.

"Some of the statements collected suggest that certain armed attacks by opposition groups were motivated by anti-Shiite or anti-Alawite sentiments arising from the association of these communities with government policies," HRW said.

Syria's population of 23 million is predominantly Sunni Muslim, while the ruling Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, form the minority.

The Syrian National Council (SNC), the main opposition group, reacted to the HRW report by saying it "deplores the reported incidents of human rights violations by armed opposition groups."

"We oppose any form of violence and support all the international conventions and treaties on the protection of human rights," it said in a statement issued by a spokeswoman, Bassma Kodmani.

"We are even now working to implement a code of conduct and build coordination between the various groups on the ground in Syria to ensure that human rights abuse does not occur in the fight for freedom."

She said the SNC position was in sharp contrast to that of the regime.

"We are doing this while the regime continues to kill and torture peaceful protesters and innocent civilians. To date, thousands have been tortured and killed and over 50,000 people are missing," the statement read.

HRW recounted the story of Marwan, an Alawite resident of Karm el-Zaytoun, a neighbourhood of central Homs, who said his elderly parents were kidnapped in January and later killed by armed gangs.


First Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 23:44

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