The Syrian government and pro-government forces were responsible for executing at least 248 people in the coastal towns of al-Bayda and Baniyas in early May of this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] stated in a report [text] released on Friday. The report is based on interviews with residents from al-Bayda and Baniyas, including witnesses who saw or heard forces detain and then execute their relatives. The advocacy group determined from the witness accounts as well as from video evidence that the vast majority of individuals were executed after military clashes had ended and opposition fighters had retreated. The Syrian government previously acknowledged military operations in the coastal towns but said that its forces had killed only "terrorists." Regarding the executions, Joe Stork, acting Middle East director of HRW, stated [press release], "While the world's attention is on ensuring that Syria's government can no longer use chemical weapons against its population, we shouldn't forget that Syrian government forces have used conventional means to slaughter civilians." HRW recommended that the UN Security Council [official website] refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] for review.
The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has been ongoing since 2011 when opposition groups first began protesting the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and the increasingly bloody nature of the conflict has put pressure on the international community to intervene. On Tuesday HRW reported [JURIST report] that the Syrian government is likely responsible for the August 21 chemical weapon attacks. On Monday UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged [JURIST report] the international community to help facilitate negotiations between warring parties in Syria. Earlier this week JURIST guest columnist Curtis Doebbler argued that the use of military force against Syria would constitute a violation of international law, while guest columnist Jordan Paust provided several legal justifications [JURIST op-eds] under the UN Charter for the use of force in Syria. Last week the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee [official website] approved a joint resolution [JURIST report] authorizing the limited use of force against Syria. Also last week UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon questioned the legality [JURIST report] of the US plan to strike Syria.