Possible War Crime in Syria Publicized Online

Thursday, an Internet video from Syria, apparently shows antigovernment fighters executing and mutilating a group of captured militiamen. If the tape is authenticated, it could be evidence of a war crime used in prosecution.

The tape is an example of the 20-month long conflict between government and rebel forces in Syria. U.N. spokesperson Rupert Colville told reporters: “It looks very likely that this is a war crime, another one.” The deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program stated the video is an: “Utter disregard for international humanitarian law by the armed group in question.”

In July the International Committee of the Red Cross declared that Syria, involved in a civil war, is subject to the Geneva Conventions. This means a soldier with no protection and not in combat is considered a war crime. The highly graphic video includes 10 prisoners, who are kicked and shot at from all different directions. The video even gave rise to protests within Syria, and some say the video is not a true representation of the values of the revolution. Nevertheless, the videos provide insight into the conflict in a region where the media is severely restricted.

This is just one of thousands of videos that have been posted since the revolution began. The issue is that some of the videos cannot be corroborated, and there is a chance some of them have been digitally altered or fabricated entirely. The videos have been collected and analyzed by the U.N. investigators, to use as possible evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Commenting on the video from his Facebook page, Iyas Kadouni wrote: “We are asking for a change for the better and to liberate the country from murderers. I’m not being insensitive about what we’ve all been feeling because of the innocent blood that has been spilled, but this not how we obtain our rights.” As an activist in Saraqib, Mr. Kadouni received death threats following his post online.

In viewing the video, do you think those responsible should be subject to prosecution for committing war crimes? Does it satisfy the guidelines of the Geneva Convention? How should the U.N. investigators go about handling the situation in Syria?

Sources: Video, N.Y. Times


  1. This is a terrible situation that continues to play out on the ground in Syria. Clearly, the actions of the Syrian military are violative of the Geneva Conventions as well as the Rome Statute, and various other international treaties. (ICCPR) Article 8 of the Rome Statute clearly forbids the willful causing of great suffering, or serious injury to body or health and also of willfully depriving a prisoner of war or other protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial. Clearly the massacre of prisoners violates this Article, and is therefore a War Crime. The UN Security Council has referred the situation to the International Criminal Court. Unfortunately, Syria exists in a highly politicized area of the world. Hopefully this will not stop the ICC from issuing an arrest warrant for those responsible and trying them for their war crimes and crimes against humanity.

  2. I agree with Joey. This seems to be an open invitation for the United Nations to initiate a Security Counsel Referral. In doing so, they would grant the International Criminal Court jurisdiction to investigate alleged crimes in the same way the ICC has conducted investigations in Libya, Sudan, and other war torn countries. It is critically important the the United Nations lead by example and let Syria know that such blatant violations of international law will not be tolerated.

  3. I think that this situation should be handled immediately and with a strong reaction by the UN against Syria. Under Article 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, states are obligated to search for the persons who have committed graves breaches – grave breaches are defined in Article 147 as consisting of “any of the following acts, if committed against persons… protected by the present Convention: wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment… wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health.” There was clearly at the least inhuman treatment causing suffering seen in the video, and therefore Syria must find those who committed those acts and bring them to justice immediately. If immediate action is not taken, the UN has to take a strong stance against Syria. If the UN does not react strongly or swiftly, I fear that other nations in the midst of civil war will have no authority to stop such suffering in their nations; or, other nations will not condone such action because the UN has not made it clear that it will not allow that type of atrocious conduct. What is most disturbing about this matter is that the video is “just one of thousands of videos” that exist, which means that Syria and the UN have been idle while thousands are being treated terribly.

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