The Execution of Detainees at al Khazzanat Detention Center in Khan Sheikhoun City in the Suburbs of Idlib Governorate Constitutes a War Crime
SNHR has released a report entitled: “Lewa’ al Aqsa Group Carries Out Mass Executions Involving Civilians and Armed Opposition Fighters” which document mass executions of fighters affiliated to armed opposition factions and a number of civilians at the hands of “Lewa’ al Aqsa” group in Khan Sheikhoun city in the southern suburbs of Idlib governorate on Wednesday, February 15 and Thursday night, February 16, 2017.
The report draws upon a number of accounts from victims’ families and civil defense teams in the area. The report includes two accounts in addition to an account by a survivor who was formerly detained at “al Khazzanat” detention center in Khan Sheikhoun.
The report notes that SNHR has explained the purpose of the interviews for the witnesses who gave us permission to use the information they provided in this report without offering or giving them any incentives. SNHR has tried to spare them the agony of remembering the violation as much as possible. We also made sure to conceal the identity of any witnesses who preferred to use an alias.
The report says that Lewa’ al Aqsa -an extremist Islamic group who has pledged its allegiance to ISIS- established its own courts and detention centers in the areas they took over in early-February 2017, most notably a detention center in al Khazzanat facility in Khan Sheikhoun city, which the report addresses.
The report records that between February 6 and February 9, 2017, Lewa’ al Aqsa group arrested and abducted 196 individuals who were mostly armed opposition fighters either in raids or as those fighters were passing one of the many checkpoints Lewa’ al Aqsa established after taking over cities and towns in the northern suburbs of Hama.
The report documents the killing of no less than 142 individuals who most of them were fighters. There signs suggesting that they were shot in the head. Among the victims were one civilian media activist. The mass killings took place on Wednesday, February 15 and Thursday night, February 16 in “al Khazzanat” detention center. Through contacting victims’ families, we found that the victims are distributed across Syrian governorates as follows: 99 from Hama governorate, 42 from Idlib governorate, and 1 from Homs governorate.
The report stresses that Lewa’ al Aqsa carried out acts of violence against its detainees that manifested in torture and conditions of detention, and conducted quick executions of detained fighters who were unable to fight, as these executions were carried out with no trials. This constitutes willful killing crimes, which is all a violation of the Common Article 3 of Geneva Conventions and the customary international law, and amount to war crimes.
The recommends to the Security Council that the strikes and military attacks against extremist groups must be in parallel with working immediately on ending the daily killings and torture which are being carried out Syrian regime and its Iranian ally in a sectarian manner. All crime perpetrators must be held accountable.
The report demands that the international coalition’s airstrikes target all extremist global cross-border groups, such as Iranian groups, and the PKK, and not only the Islamic groups. This create a feeling of martyr sympathy in societies toward these groups, as terrorism is indivisible.
The report emphasizes the necessity to form a community alliance to eliminate these extremist groups, instead of relying on an ethnic or sectarian part in the society under the pretext of eliminating these extremist groups. This contributes to the fragmentation and division of society and establishes for wars of other kinds.
Finally, the report says that Extremist groups represent a core threat to all Syrians. These groups have enough financial resources to pay the wages of their fighters. The community factions must be supported in their war on global extremist groups on all material and military levels.