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UN rights chief urges probe into Syria executions

Published on 02/08/2013

UN rights chief Navi Pillay called Friday for a probe into the reported mass execution by rebels of Syrian soldiers taken captive in fighting in the north of the country this week.

Pillay said the events during fighting for control of the town of Khan al-Assal in the northern province of Aleppo were “deeply shocking”.

Video footage shot by rebels and information provided by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights suggest dozens of members of regime forces were executed.

“There needs to be a thorough independent investigation to establish whether war crimes have been committed. And those responsible for such crimes should be brought to justice,” Pillay said.

“Based on the analysis by my team to date, we believe armed opposition groups in one incident — documented by a video — executed at least 30 individuals, the majority of whom appeared to be soldiers,” she said.

She added that the material gathered by her office suggested the overall toll in the Khan al-Assal battle was much higher.

The world’s attention has focused mainly on massacres committed by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime since a popular uprising broke out against his rule in March 2011.

The protests soon evolved into a fully-fledged civil conflict, with jihadist foreign fighters taking a leading role in the rebellion, and Pillay warned the latest executions were evidence that abuses were being committed on both sides.

“Opposition forces should not think they are immune from prosecution. They must adhere to their responsibilities under international law,” she said.