Syrian civilians forced to pay up to stop the shelling
Anti-government protestors gesture on the streets of Dera'a, 100kms south of the capital Damascus. (AFP PHOTO/ANWAR AMRO)
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Civilians in Syria are being asked to pay their local army stations to stop the bombing attacks, according to a United Nations report published on Monday.
According to the document, there have been three separate incidents when locals in Damascus and Dera’a have “received demands for payment from nearby army positions in exchange for a cessation of the shelling.”
The report details some of the terrible conditions that civilians across the country have had to face, during the conflict that has killed an estimated 70,000 people.
However, it is not only the regime’s army that is accused of targeting civilians. Opposition fighters are also committing human rights abuses, according to the report.
More than 500 people have been detained in FSA-administered prisons in just one city, according to the UN and the rebels have not properly cared for their detainees.
One Idlib man, detained by an anti-government group “stated that he was beaten and given electric shocks.”
This is not the first time that the rebels have been accused of committing atrocities. In November last year, international NGO, Human Rights Watch, reported that the opposition was recruiting children among their ranks of fighters.
The UN report today confirmed that this was the case, with boys as young as 13, allowed to join the anti-government soldiers. Although the Syrian regime’s army is stricter about age-limits, it is no less culpable when it comes to the detention and torture of political opponents.
In July last year, Human Rights Watch published an interactive map of the regime’s torture centers around Syria, detailing the scale of the problem.
With little or no rule of law, civilians have also been forming their own “popular committees”, to take control of local areas. Seemingly a harmless kind of neighborhood watch, these groups have become militarized and are terrorizing towns and villages, according to the report.
“At times they are alleged to be participating in house-to-house searches, identity checks, mass arrests, looting and acting as [government] informants,” the report states, adding “Witnesses frequently describe these groups as Shabbiha”.
So with conditions worsening, Syrians have been fleeing en-masse to neighboring countries. An estimated two-thirds of these are women and children, according to the UN.
The report states that, “On 3 March 2013, the estimate stood at 975,000. Approximately 16% of the total number of Syrian refugees fled the country in a 12 day period.”
Added to this number is a further 2.5 million Syrians who have been internally displaced. The UN has repeatedly asked for members of the Syrian government to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes. However, with the battle raging on and no sign of international intervention coming, these cries for justice stand little chance of being heard.
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