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