The Syrian civil war reached closest to the capital of Damascus yesterday, with heavy fighting in a well-to-do suburb between government forces and the Free Syrian Army, which continues to welcome defectors. There are reports that Saudi Arabia has sent military equipment to aid the rebels in the Free Syrian Army, according to an anonymous diplomat for the Arab nation.
But here comes the part where we question who the “good guys” in this fight are, which is important, considering the push by neoconservatives to arm these same Syrian rebels, or intervene militarily on their behalf. It turns out that human rights groups are now accusing the Syrian opposition of a litany of abuses.
US campaign group Human Rights Watch (HRW) says elements of Syria’s armed opposition have carried out serious human rights abuses, including kidnapping, torture and execution.
The group says the “brutal tactics” of the government cannot justify abuses by armed opposition groups.
HRW calls on the opposition leadership to speak out and condemn those abuses.
It made the statement in an open letter to the main opposition coalition, the Syrian National Council (SNC).
Like in Libya, there is no one “Libyan opposition,” but instead a loose coalition – probably looser in Syria – of opposition groups. And the main coalition does not have formal control over all these groups. So you have instances of “disappearances, use of torture and forced televised confessions, arbitrary detentions, indiscriminate shelling of neighborhoods, and deaths in custody under torture,” as Human Rights Watch alleges, coming from a series of groups rather than necessarily from the main coalition. HRW does acknowledge this, saying that “We recognize that the perpetrators of these abuses are not always easy to identify nor do they necessarily belong to an organized command structure that follows the orders of the SNC or other opposition groups. Some reports received by Human Rights Watch indicate that in addition to armed groups with political motivations, criminal gangs, sometimes operating in the name of the opposition, may be carrying out some of these crimes.”
It makes it difficult to know even who to support in the event of an intervention, let alone who to blame for the abuses.
The UN’s commission of inquiry has also documented these abuses, which are sadly ongoing over the past six months. You can read about all the abuse in the HRW open letter. Once again, those who want to rush us into another war in the Middle East, and in particular to intervene on one side of a civil war, must explain how it constitutes humanitarian intervention to support and bolster those engaging in human rights abuses themselves.