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The situation in Syria - some clarifications.

In a week that marked a year of protests in Syria we issued a report highlighting the use of torture in detention in the country. We also continue to call on the Russian authorities to help stop the bloodshed.

In posting both on Facebook we have received quite a few comments concerned about our targeting of the Russian  Federation and the focus on the Syrian authorities, rather than the armed opposition groups that have formed in recent months. In order to respond to these comments at some length, we thought it worth posting our reply here.

There have been two main strands of comment, we have used one of each 'type' here to represent the general gist but please do go to our Facebook page if you would like to read more as they of course do all raise different nuances.

What about the armed opposition?

There have been questions about our concern with the violence of the Syrian authorities and a perceived lack of concern with the violence of armed opposition groups. These questions can be summed up by this recent post:

"So, if Alaskans mounted an armed violent insurrection, would the US gov come down hard? Syrian response is ruthless as would be US. Perhaps we should target both sides of this, those arming and fomenting war rather than supporting propganda against just Syria."

We have written to the Syrian government several times to request their assistance in obtaining information on people killed since the unrest began. We asked for information on numbers killed from within the security forces; armed individuals or groups; and civilians. We have not received any response to date.

To assess the credibility of these reports Amnesty International is again asking the Syrian government to allow it - and other international human rights monitors - access to the country to investigate human rights violations taking place.

The Syrian government should ensure that their law enforcement officials use force only when strictly necessary and only to the minimum extent required under the circumstances. These standards do not mean that soldiers and police cannot defend themselves if they come under fire. The bottom line is that the Syrian government have an obligation to observe international human rights standards on law enforcement and policing. They are failing in that responsibility.

It should be noted though that the vast majority of the thousands of people killed have been unarmed demonstrators and bystanders who posed no threat to security forces or others.

It should also be noted that the Syrian authorities have a long record of torturing and killing civilians with impunity. When the uprising began in Syria on March 15 2011 the Syrian authorities immediately cracked down heavily and killed peaceful protesters in the subsequent days.

The militarisation in some parts of Syria has occurred over recent months but even in these situations, the Syrian authorities are responding disproportionately and indiscriminately and the torture and killing of unarmed protesters continues. The Syrian authority’s actions amount to crimes against humanity and it is absolutely right that we call for the situation to be referred to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

You can find out more about this all at or see all statements from our research headquarters

Why Russia?

There has also been concern raised over our targeting of the Russian authorities, calling on them to use their influence - as the key arms supplier to the Syrian authorities - to help stop the bloodshed. The comments on this issue are summarised by this post:

"What about the admitted torture, with the aid of Europe. Massive civilian deaths committed by the US and allies. whilst hippocrits rule it is hard to make a just argument. The US and France are the key supplier of arms to the opposition. So the point about Russia ?"

The Russian Federation are the key international government with the most influence over the Syrian authorities. We are calling on them to use their significant influence to call on the Syrian authorities to stop the killing, rein in their security and armed forces, let in international humanitarian and human rights organisations and give them unhindered movement.

On the surface, the Russian authorities are developing their positions all the time – they are publicly condemning the violence and have said the actions by the Syrian Government are totally unacceptable. Amnesty would like to see them go further and if they are genuinely concerned about the violence then they should stop exacerbating the violence by sending arms. This is why we are calling on Russia so vigorously to stop the flow of weapons to the Syrian authorities.

But let’s be clear – we are calling for an international and comprehensive arms embargo on Syria – that means arms from any source anywhere.

We criticise all countries that supply arms in any context where there is a risk that they will used to commit human rights violations. That is why we are calling for a robust arms trade treaty that would ensure no country - not Russia, not the UK, not France and not the USA - could transfer arms where there is that risk.

Find out more about our campaign at or read more about our wider work at

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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The regime's opponents are murdering prisoners taken in arms and Amnesty need to contemplate that. On the one hand you pretend to know much, and on the other absolutely nothing. It is not very credible is it? Why don't you go to YouTube, and look at the FSA videos, try to work out how many of the captured soldiers and police officers forcibly filmed by paramilitary groups are likely to be still alive?

Gregory Carlin 12 years ago

Why does Amnesty UK deny Syrian Kurds to protest and talk in the rallys? Don't tell me this organization is as flawed as the Assad Regime. Also to gc1956a, if loyalists were rounding up your children and family and then slaughtering them on the street, would you not want revenge? How can I ask you this, you probably have never been in a situation like this. I hope the Assad family and their associates excluding the children get trialed by the International Court and get sentenced to death for their decades of wrong doings. If only people could have the pleasure of trialing Hafez as well for the Hama Massacre. To end this note to Amnesty UK, the organization in the UK should be ashamed of themselves for the discrimination they have put toward the Syrian Kurds, we are not new to Syrian Arab discrimination against us. Kurds have accounted for half the protests in Syria, if you exclude them, this will be a backlash to remember. All I hear is about Syrian Arabs, no news of Kurds in the media. I hope that Amnesty UK and all other media sources get uncovered so people may see how truly cruel they are. Damn them...

khidr 12 years ago

'Also to gc1956a, if loyalists were rounding up your children and family and then slaughtering them on the street, would you not want revenge?' - Revenge is illegal. The difference is between a criminal gang or organization and an entity entitled to the Geneva accords. Murdering POWS and recruiting children is also not really good PR for a civilized or legal struggle. The UN ( in short) has no remit to take sides with criminals, or terrorists who are using cities as a war zone to shield themselves from the regular authorities.

Gregory Carlin 12 years ago

"It should be noted though that the vast majority of the thousands of people killed have been unarmed demonstrators and bystanders who posed no threat to security forces or others."

That assessment is quite frankly completely unhinged and if Amnesty thinks it is the case, your organization needs to be in another line of work.

It is perfectly bizarre to see Amnesty and the regime both grasping for the same straw of denial in relation to a conflict determined by civil war factors at the outset.

"Syria is now in a full-scale civil war, UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said on Tuesday, as UN observers reported they were fired on as they tried to enter a town feared to be the focus of a new massacre."

It is a civil war, and Amnesty should accept that reality.

Gregory Carlin 11 years ago