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Wed Jun 27, 2012, 01:42 PM

Inside Syria's civil war

The evidence of rebel groups’ abuses pales in comparisons to violations commmitted by regime forces. The report details instances of torture, sexual abuse, and executions committed by Assad’s security forces. Methods of torture described by former detainees includes "mock executions; electric shocks applied to sensitive parts of the body, including genitals; cigarettes burns; and beating with electric cables, whips, metal and wooden sticks and rifle butts." In other cases, detainees were "forcibly shaved, made to imitate dogs and to declare that ‘there is no God but Bashar’ while in a position of supplication."

There is also evidence that pro-Assad forces are using sexual abuse as a weapon. After Syrian military forces recaptured the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs from rebel fighters in February, for instance, the commission received multiple reports of rape and sexual assault against the area’s residents. One man "described being forced to watch as his wife and two of his daughters were raped by three of the men involved," the report said. "Afterwards, he stated, he, too, was raped while his family was made to watch."


The commission doesn’t establish guilt for the Houla massacre, but its evidence points toward Syrian military forces. On May 25, over 100 people – including many women and children -- were killed in the village of al-Houla, many of whom were summarily executed at close range. A large section of the report is devoted to reconstructing the events there, in an attempt to determine who was responsible for the massacre.

The commission’s efforts fell short of conclusively identifying the culprit, but nevertheless provided valuable information on the political loyalty of the town and the placement of Syrian forces. It describes the government checkpoints present in the town, including on Main St., one of the two primary locations where the massacre was committed. "T)he checkpoints were sufficiently close to the crime scenes that the noises emanating therefrom (gunbursts and screams) would likely have alerted those manning the checkpoint," the report states. "Thus, the (commission) determined that the location of the checkpoints…made it likely that those manning the pro-Government checkpoints were aware." The report was unable to identify the political loyalties of the two families that suffered the massacres, but did note that the neighborhoods where the killings took place "appeared aligned to the opposition more than the Government." Meanwhile, it noted, "it was opposition groups who first arrived to the scene, cared for the wounded, prepared the deceased for burial, and were present in large numbers during the funeral."


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