UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Thursday warned [press release] Syrian opposition groups that recent mass executions are in violation of international human rights, and that these acts may also constitute war crimes. Pillay claimed that she has received numerous reports from reliable eyewitness sources claiming that several civilians in the custody of armed opposition forces have already been executed this year. She reminded all parties involved that such executions are clearly prohibited by Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions [text], which states that those taking no part in hostilities are to be treated humanely. Calling the reports "deeply disturbing," Pillay urged all parties "to strictly respect their obligations under international law and remind[ed] them that everyone involved in serious crimes must be held accountable."
The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] continues to threaten the lives of millions of citizens in the country and refugees have emigrated to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq in alarming numbers since 2011. Last month the UN investigated the use of chemical weapons [JURIST report] in Syria and found credible evidence that several more attacks occurred than previously reported. Also last month, the UN heightened its concern [JURIST report] surrounding the country in a report on global rights progress, citing Syria and the Central African Republic [JURIST news archive] as two major areas of instability. Earlier in December the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported growing evidence of crimes against humanity [JURIST report] in Syria. In October, Amos called for a cease fire [JURIST report] in rural Damascus to allow humanitarian agencies to evacuate all remaining civilians and deliver medical aid to conflict areas.