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Syria: appeal for global pressure as Arab League and 'BRICS' meet

‘The opposition must not waver - it has both a duty and an opportunity to denounce abuses carried out by armed opposition groups’ - Ann Harrison

Global pressure must be applied to all parties in the Syrian conflict to abide by international humanitarian and human rights law, Amnesty International said as the League of Arab States gathered in Qatar for a summit and “BRICS” nations met at a separate event in South Africa.

The Arab League gathering - where the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces has been given Syria’s seat after the suspension of the Syrian government in November 2011 - should see a tough message emerge against abuses perpetrated by armed groups, said Amnesty.

While it is clear that the vast majority of war crimes and other gross violations continue to be committed by government forces, Amnesty research points to an escalation in abuses by armed opposition groups, which have increasingly resorted to hostage-taking and to the torture and summary killing of soldiers, pro-government militias and civilians. In a recent briefing, Summary Killings and other abuses by armed opposition groups, Amnesty documented dozens of such cases.

Amnesty also urged Brazil, Russian, India, China and South Africa - BRICS nations attending a summit in South Africa this week - to show international leadership at the level of the UN Security Council regarding the situation in Syria.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Ann Harrison said:

“The situation in Syria is a human rights catastrophe unfolding before our eyes on a daily basis. It is critical that whenever members of the international community meet, they place human rights in Syria high on the agenda.

“BRICS members must press both sides - and in particular the Syrian government with whom the Russian government has a close relationship - to end war crimes and crimes against humanity, which it is continuing to commit.

“BRICS countries must do all within their power to ensure that the UN Security Council refers the situation in Syria to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court as soon as possible, to ensure accountability for international crimes committed by all sides in the conflict.

“The Syrian government must also allow unimpeded access to all parts of Syria for humanitarian organisations to deliver much-needed aid, as well as to international human rights monitors such as the UN independent international Commission of Inquiry.

“The opposition must not waver - it has both a duty and an opportunity to denounce abuses carried out by armed opposition groups and stand in line with international humanitarian law - paying lip service to it is not enough.”

Amnesty has recently documented violations by Syrian security forces and pro-government militias in the briefing Government bombs rain on civilians, the latest in a long line of reports highlighting the targeting of civilians, arbitrary arrest, torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and other abuses since the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011.

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