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Foreign-backed militants committing war crimes in Syria: Amnesty

5 July 2016 14:00

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Amnesty International says militant groups backed by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and the US are involved in “a chilling wave of abductions, torture and summary killings” amounting to “war crimes” in Syria.

In a report on Tuesday, Amnesty named al-Nusra Front, which is the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, as well as the so-called Ahrar al-Sham, Nureddin Zinki, the Levant Front and Division 16 as groups engaged in war crimes in Syria.

The groups have detained and tortured lawyers, journalists, and children among others for criticizing them, the London-based group said.

Some of the groups in question “are believed to have the support of governments such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the US,” it added.

The US has thwarted a Russian bid in the United Nations to put Ahrar al-Sham on the list of terrorist groups.

Back in May, it was reported that Labib al-Nahhas, who calls himself “a chief of foreign political relations at Ahrar al-Sham,” had been allowed to pay a visit to the US on a European passport.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last month that the US had asked Moscow not to hit Nusra positions in Syria.

All of the groups named by Amnesty in its Tuesday report are operating in northern Syria.

“In Aleppo and Idlib today, armed groups have free rein to commit war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law with impunity,” said Philip Luther, the head of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program.

“Many civilians live in constant fear of being abducted if they criticize the conduct of armed groups in power or fail to abide by the strict rules that some have imposed,” he said.

The report is based on 24 accounts of abduction by anti-government groups between 2012 and 2016 and another five cases of torture, Amnesty said.

The group said it documented violations in Idlib, which is held by al-Nusra and its allies, and Aleppo.

The rights group called on world powers to “pressure armed groups to end such abuses and comply with the laws of war.”

The report said regional powers must also stop providing weapons or other forms of support to any factions involved in war crimes or other violations.

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