The Syrian economy is collapsing, and the Syrian people are suffering. But the Assad regime has found a new “cash cow” that is reaping great profit for the government: enforced disappearances.
Six years ago, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda. Today, the effect of the failure to arrest him can be seen in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where he and other members of armed groups remain free to commit further human rights violations against civilians.
The DRC is one of several situations featured on our new Demand Justice website. It was launched on International Justice Day earlier this week in order to provide us with a more powerful tool to mobilize activists around the globe to bring Bosco Ntaganda and others to trial.
If convicted war criminals, such as Thomas Lubanga Dyilo had a Twitter account, he probably would not share our new site. If war crimes suspects Joseph Kony and Omar al-Bashir were active on Facebook, they would hardly “Like” our Fugitives from International Justice infographic. Why not?
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The Assad regime in Syria has done everything it can to prevent the world from knowing what it is doing to its people: International media is blocked access to crisis points, international organizations are prevented from doing their jobs and human rights organizations are denied entry.
When details come out, the regime pulls out another old trick of claiming the victims are the transgressors and the government is the victim of terrorists.
The anecdote to this is documentation, and this is where Amnesty International can do valuable work. Thursday, in a new 70-page report, Deadly Reprisals, the organization provides fresh evidence of widespread as well as systematic violations, including crimes against humanity and war crimes, being perpetrated as part of state policy to exact revenge against communities suspected of supporting the opposition and to intimidate people into submission.
Yesterday, Syrian President Bashar Assad justified his government’s actions by comparing himself to a doctor trying to save a patient. As reported by the Associated Press, Assad stated in a speech:
When a surgeon in an operating room … cuts and cleans and amputates, and the wound bleeds, do we say to him your hands are stained with blood? Or do we thank him for saving the patient?
The disturbing words come against a backdrop of horrifying violence. Amnesty International has received the names of nearly 10,000 people killed since the government began cracking down on peaceful protestors over a year ago. Although peaceful demonstrations have continued, the unrest has turned increasingly violent. Armed opposition groups, many loosely under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), have also carried out attacks — mainly against Syrian security forces.
On Friday, the Syrian military brutally killed over 100 people in Houla, Syria. Our sources tell us that the barrage of shells, mortars, rockets and raids on Friday left at least 108 dead, including 34 women and 50 children.
The horrifying violence has had geopolitical repercussions around the world:
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated, “The government bears the main responsibility for what is going on.” It was a surprising departure from past statements by Russian officials that provided diplomatic cover for Syrian government violence.
- Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood called on “Arab, Islamic and international governments … and the people of the free world to intervene to stop these massacres.”
- And today, at least 10 nations expelled their Syrian ambassadors and senior Syrian diplomats — the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria and the Netherlands.
It’s almost unbelievable, a government targeting children in an attempt to repress popular uprisings.
The latest reports from the BBC that Syrian children are being targeted for detention and torture are shocking but coincide with evidence Amnesty researchers uncovered in a recent mission to the region.
According to UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay, these actions against children seem “systematic and targeted” and are being carried out by Assad’s security forces:
“They’ve gone for the children, for whatever purpose, in large numbers – hundreds detained and tortured.