A new video from the Syria conflict that circulated via the Internet on Thursday showed antigovernment fighters armed with rifles kicking and summarily executing a group of prisoners, apparently soldiers or militiamen, in what human rights activists called evidence of a war crime and another indication that both sides were increasingly committing atrocities.
The video, which could not be authenticated independently but still attracted the attention of Amnesty International and other rights groups, appeared to have been made in Saraqeb, a town in Idlib Province in northern Syria that has been the scene of particularly brutal fighting between rebels and loyalists in the 20-month-old conflict.
In the video, 10 prisoners are shown being forced by their captors to lie next to or atop one another in what remained of a largely destroyed structure that may have been a military checkpoint. The antigovernment fighters, whose precise identity or affiliation were not clear, yell “Allah Akhbar!” or “God is great!” as they kick and herd the prisoners into a pile. Then they open fire.
“This shocking footage depicts a potential war crime in progress, and demonstrates an utter disregard for international humanitarian law by the armed group in question,” said Ann Harrison, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program.
She said, “We will continue to investigate the incident and once again urge all sides to respect the laws of war and to refrain from torturing, ill-treating or killing their prisoners.”
While much of the video and other evidence filtering out of the Syria conflict has depicted government atrocities against civilians, increasingly there have been instances of abuses against government forces and their sympathizers. On July 31, videos posted on YouTube showed rebels in the northern city of Aleppo executing by ad hoc firing squad several members of a prominent family with close ties to President Bashar al-Assad. The victims died in a 45-second hail of bullets after they were forced to sit along the wall of a local school decorated with a mural of Mickey Mouse and SpongeBob SquarePants.