Syrian government assault on Aleppo is culmination of months of repression - new report

Aleppo crackdown part of crimes against humanity by Syrian government forces

The assault by Syrian government forces on the city of Aleppo is the culmination of months of brutal crackdowns against dissidents there, Amnesty International said in a new report on Aleppo published today (1 August).   The report, All-Out Repression , is based on first-hand field investigations by Amnesty in Aleppo at the end of May.    Demonstrations in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and main economic centre, started later and remained smaller than in Syria’s other main towns. As the size and frequency of Aleppo’s anti-government protests increased in recent months, Amnesty’s report shows that the state security apparatus reacted with a characteristically reckless and brutal use of force that inevitably led to peaceful demonstrators being killed and injured.   The report documents how security forces and the notorious government-backed shabiha militias routinely used live fire against peaceful demonstrations, killing and injuring protesters and bystanders, including Children's rights. They hunted down the wounded - and medics who treated them - and opposition activists. It also details arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and the routine use of torture. The report provides evidence that families of demonstrators and bystanders shot dead by security forces have been pressured into signing statements saying that their loved ones were killed by “armed terrorist gangs”.      Amnesty’s investigations of allegations of human rights violations on the ground in Syria, including in Aleppo and surrounding areas, leads it to conclude that the Syrian government is responsible for mass violations amounting to crimes against humanity.    Amnesty International Senior Crisis Response Adviser Donatella Rovera, who recently spent several weeks investigating abuses in northern Syria, including in Aleppo, said:   “The current onslaught on the city of Aleppo - which puts civilians at even more grave risk - is a predictable development which follows the disturbing pattern of abuses by state forces across the country.   “The peaceful demonstrations I witnessed in different parts of the city invariably ended with security forces firing live rounds at peaceful protesters, their reckless and indiscriminate shooting often killing or injuring bystanders as well as demonstrators.   “It is manifestly evident that the Syrian government has no intention of ending, let alone investigating, these crimes. Indeed it has attempted to prevent any independent investigation of these grave abuses in Aleppo and in other parts of the country.   “It is incumbent on the international community to provide justice to the Syrian people and to ensure those responsible for such grave violations and crimes are held to account.   “But only a few days ago, the Security Council again failed to agree on a resolution on Syria. The paralysis of the international community over the past 18 months has unsurprisingly resulted in the Syrian government believing it can continue to commit violations, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, with impunity. The situation in Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court without further delay.”   In the report, Amnesty has repeated its calls on the Security Council to ensure a human rights monitoring mission is present in the country, either by strengthening, extending and expanding the paralysed UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) whose mandate ends in August, or by establishing another mechanism. The organisation also reiterates its long-standing calls for the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and to impose an arms embargo on Syria with the aim of stopping the flow of weapons to the Syrian government. Amnesty also wants the Security Council to implement an asset freeze against President Bashar al-Assad and others who may be involved in ordering or perpetrating crimes under international law.   With the crisis in Syria turning into internal armed conflict and with rising reports of abuses by the armed opposition, Amnesty is also calling on all governments considering the supply of arms to the Free Syrian Army or other armed opposition groups to first carry out a rigorous risk assessment based on objective information to ensure that there is not a substantial risk that those arms would be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of human rights, including crimes under international law.  

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