Syria government forces executed at least 248 civilians: human rights group

13.09.2013 16:47

Syrian government forces and pro-
regime militias summarily executed at
least 248 men, women and children in
one of the deadliest attacks since the
start of the conflict in Syria more than
two years ago, a report from Human
Rights Watch said Friday.
The killings took place in the towns of
al-Bayda and Baniyas on May 2 and 3,
according to the the report.
The international non-governmental
organization said its investigation
was based on video evidence and
interviews with 15 al-Bayda residents
and five from Baniyas, including
witnesses who said they saw or heard
government and pro-government
forces detain and then execute their
"While the world's attention is on
ensuring that Syria's government can
no longer use chemical weapons
against its population, we shouldn't
forget that Syrian government forces
have used conventional means to
slaughter civilians," said Joe
Stork, acting Middle East director at
Human Rights Watch.
According to the report, the slaughter
followed a clash between Syrian
government forces and a group of
opposition fighters in the town of al-
Bayda on the morning of May 2.
Around 1 p.m., the opposition fighters
retreated, prompting the pro-
government forces to enter the village,
search the houses, separate the men
from the women, round up the men
and execute them by shooting at close
The report said many women and
children were spared, but Human
Rights Watch documented the
execution of at least 23 women and 14
children, including some infants.
Witnesses told the organization that
the bodies of those executed were
burned by pro-regime troops.
"In one particularly gruesome case,
security forces piled up at least 25
bodies in a cellphone store on the
village square and set them on fire,
according to witness statements and
video evidence reviewed by Human
Rights Watch," the report read.
The following day, a similarly horrific
scenario took place in nearby Baniyas,
where government forces and pro-
government militias executed dozens of
A man who witnessed the aftermath of
the attack, described the scene to the
organization: "As we entered further
into the house, we got to a room
where we found so many corpses.
Mothers and children piled on top of
each other. One mother was still
covering her son. I thought he may
have survived but as I turned her over,
I saw that he had been also shot."
Other bodies were found piled high in
the streets bearing gunshot wounds to
the head and chest, the report read.
The Syrian government acknowledged
its military operations in al-Bayda and
Baniyas but said that its forces had
killed only "terrorists."
According to witness accounts
provided to Human Rights Watch, the
troops who wreaked havoc in al-Bayda
and Baniyas were "a mix of regular
government troops; members of the
National Defense Force, a paramilitary
group organized earlier in the year by
the government from pro-government
militias; and armed pro-government
residents of neighboring villages."
Earlier this week, another Human
Rights Watch report blamed Syrian
government forces for the Aug. 21
chemical weapons attack.
The U.S.-based rights group said it had
reached that conclusion after analyzing
witness accounts, remnants of the
weapons used and medical records of
HRW said it did not believe the attack
could have been carried out by rebels
or other “terrorists” as a smokescreen,
as suggested by Syrian President
Bashar Assad.
"Human Rights Watch and arms
experts monitoring the use of
weaponry in Syria have not
documented Syrian opposition forces
to be in possession of the 140 mm and
330 mm rockets used in the attack, or
their associated launchers," the report
The organization urged the U.N.
Security Council to refer the situation
in Syria to the International Criminal
Court to ensure accountability for the
extrajudicial executions.
Tens of thousands have already lost
their lives in the bloody conflict
between forces loyal to Assad and
those opposed to his rule, forcing
more than 2 million people to flee
across Syria's borders.