The fact that the Syrian rebels have committed war crimes has been found and publicized repeatedly for anyone willing to hear it. In May, a United Nations investigation found that rebel militias were committing atrocities along with Syrian government forces. Again in August, the UN “identified both parties as guilty of war crimes.” Human rights organizations like Amnesty International, along with good, hard reporting have revealed a systematic practice among the rebel groups of murder, torture, and brutal massacres.
Now again, Human Rights Watch exposes practices of torture and executions by Syrian rebel forces and urges investigations and pressure for these crimes to stop:
Armed opposition groups have subjected detainees to ill-treatment and torture and committed extrajudicial or summary executions in Aleppo, Latakia, and Idlib, Human Rights Watch said today following a visit to Aleppo governorate. Torture and extrajudicial or summary executions of detainees in the context of an armed conflict are war crimes, and may constitute crimes against humanity if they are widespread and systematic.
Opposition leaders told Human Rights Watch that they will respect human rights and that they have taken measures to curb the abuses, but Human Rights Watch expressed serious concern about statements by some opposition leaders indicating that they tolerate, or even condone, extrajudicial and summary executions. When confronted with evidence of extrajudicial executions, three opposition leaders told Human Rights Watch that those who killed deserved to be killed, and that only the worst criminals were being executed.
Yet, US policy remains aiding and abetting the Syrian rebels. As Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said, “Those assisting the Syrian opposition have a particular responsibility to condemn abuses.”
Actually, that has already occurred. In early August, White House spokesman Jay Carney was forced to condemn such acts when asked about them. “We strongly condemn summary executions by either side in Syria. We condemn actions like that,” he said, displaying no intention by the administration to try to put a stop to it or to pull support from such unscrupulous groups. Public condemnations are an easy public relations strategy of deflecting responsibilities for the crimes the US supports.
To reiterate, the US is working with allies in the Arab Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar to send the Syrian rebels weapons, intelligence, and other equipment. Our NATO ally Turkey is harboring and even training members of the Free Syrian Army, as our military and intelligence officials are stationed on the Turkish-Syrian border to aid the rebels. It is widely known and even officially acknowledged that the Syrian rebels have a large and growing contingent of al-Qaeda fighters in their ranks. Rather than deter US funding, this has merely prompted the Obama administration to claim, incredibly, that they’re going through a vetting process to ensure aid doesn’t reach the al-Qaeda-linked rebels. But the process is made up of untrustworthy, third-party sources and intelligence officials have recently told the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times that the truth is that the US doesn’t know who is getting the money and weapons.
And anyways, it would seem, from reports like this one from Human Rights Watch, that even rebels that don’t boast membership in al-Qaeda are committing serious crimes. US policy in this regard is both immoral and strategically bankrupt.