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Syrian rights groups urge US to probe Tadamon massacre

Syrian Network for Human Rights calls for action at the UN Security Council after leaked video appears to show execution of civilians
People walk amid rubble of destroyed buildings in a street in Tadamon neighbourhood of Damascus on 3 November 2018.
People walk amid the rubble of destroyed buildings in a street in the Tadamon neighbourhood of Damascus on 3 November 2018 (AFP)
By MEE staff in Washington

More than a dozen prominent Syrian civil society groups have urged the United States envoy to the United Nations to launch an investigation into the 2013 killing of 41 civilians in the neighbourhood of Tadamon in Syria's capital Damascus.

"We are writing to demand immediate action to address this massacre, which amounts to a war crime, and hold perpetrators accountable at the UN Security Council," read a letter addressed to Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

The letter was published by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) on Monday.

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The group of organisations also called on the US to convene a meeting at the UN Security Council during its presidency in May and launch an independent probe into the incident.

"There can be no peace in Syria without justice," the letter read.

The appeal comes nearly two weeks after The Guardian published a report on a leaked video that appeared to show evidence of crimes committed by Syrian forces against civilians.

The footage shows blindfolded and handcuffed civilians being told to run towards an execution ditch lying just in front of them in the Tadamon district, one of Damascus' southern suburbs which at the time was a battlefront between Syrian government forces and opposition forces.

The video also appears to show Syrian military intelligence officers of the infamous Branch 227 smiling and laughing as they assassinate the men before pouring gasoline over their bodies in the pit and setting it ablaze to hide the evidence.

'Lack of response from international community'

According to The Guardian, a horrified military recruit filmed the vicious incident and leaked the video, dated 16 April 2013, to a friend in France who then turned it over to researchers Annsar Shahhoud and Ugur Umit Ungor, from the University of Amsterdam's Holocaust and Genocide Center.

"Never before have we seen such clear evidence of a war crime committed and videotaped by Assad’s intelligence services in broad daylight, in cold blood, with no regard for the humanity of the victims or concern for consequences," read the letter.

The release of the video footage has triggered many Syrians, with some families recognising their relatives being executed in the video.

'It's high time that the international community learned that impunity for grave human rights violations in Syria has far-reaching consequences'

- Letter from Syrian civil society groups

"Many Syrians are rightfully expressing outrage about the lack of response from the international community to such a shocking report, especially in the context of similar crimes being committed by Russian forces in Ukraine," the letter added, referring to the alleged war crimes committed since Russia invaded its neighbour on 24 February.

"It's high time that the international community learned that impunity for grave human rights violations in Syria has far-reaching consequences beyond its borders."

Syria's war is estimated to have killed nearly half a million people and displaced millions since it began in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.

Syrian activists and international human rights organisations have accused the Syrian government and its allies of committing atrocities in the country's uprising-turned-civil war.

The country is also facing a rapidly worsening economic situation, following months of growing discontent. A decade of war, western sanctions, and the Covid-19 pandemic have devastated the Syrian economy, pushing most of the population into poverty as the value of the Syrian pound has plummeted. 

Government spending has been cut by more than 40 percent over the past two years, with cuts threatening a critical social support programme. 

The rising cost of living has been further stoked by food and fuel price inflation resulting from Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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