Amnesty wants partial arms embargo in Syria
Published Thursday, July 5, 2012
Leading rights group Amnesty International called on Thursday for an immediate arms embargo on the Syrian government, but held back from including armed opposition groups, despite stated concerns over human rights abuses carried out by rebels.
The British-based rights group issued a statement urging states meeting at the "Friends of Syria" summit in Paris this weekend to push for a complete halt of arms transfers to the Syrian government.
"We expect the Friends of Syria to leave this meeting in France with a clear plan to end crimes under international law and ensure justice, truth and full reparation for victims," said Ann Harrison, Middle East and North Africa Program Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
"They must exert influence on the UN Security Council to once and for all refer the situation to the ICC, impose an arms embargo that will stop the transfer of any arms and related equipment to the Syrian government, and to freeze the assets of President Bashar al-Assad and his senior associates."
Russia and China have said they will not attend this weekend's gathering of primarily Western powers and their Gulf Arab allies, who have taken an active role in the Syrian crisis through supporting armed rebels.
The Paris summit is the third "Friends of Syria" meet after a similar grouping in Tunis in February, and Istanbul in April.
Moscow has repeatedly accused the group of undermining peace efforts in Syria by tacitly backing armed rebels, and not working towards a compromise.
Amnesty concerned over rebel abuses
In its statement, Amnesty raised concerns that possible war crimes were being carried out by the Free Syrian Army, but stopped short of calling for a total arms embargo that would include rebels.
"Amnesty International has been receiving increasing numbers of reports of serious abuses, including possible war crimes by some members of armed opposition groups, including the Free Syrian Army (FSA)," it said.
Instead, Amnesty is calling for "states considering the supply of arms to opposition fighters...[to] carry out rigorous risk assessments based on objective information to ensure that there is not a substantial risk those arms would be used to commit or facilitate crimes under international law."
Russia and the United States have previously accused each other of supplying opposing forces in Syria with arms, and thus working against peace efforts.
When asked by Al-Akhbar why it did not call for a total arms embargo, Amnesty said abuses perpetrated by rebels had not reached the same level as crimes committed by the regime, and did not meet its "strict criteria" for calling for an arms embargo.
"Based upon the evidence we have at our disposal, the abuses reported to have been committed by armed opposition groups in Syria have not yet reached the level where we would call for a total embargo on all arms in the same manner," Amnesty International said in response.
"With regard to the Syrian government: following our research into the situation, where the government forces have committed widespread and systematic violations of human rights and attacks amounting to crimes against humanity, Amnesty International believes that this criterion was met months ago, so we began calling for an arms embargo on Syria in 2011," it said.
Amnesty said its investigation into crimes committed by rebel forces are ongoing, and a further judgment on whether a total arms embargo is necessary will be made.
"We will be revisiting the question of whether a comprehensive arms embargo should be imposed on the armed opposition as we investigate reports that they are responsible for serious abuses and possible war crimes."