Middle East

Amnesty documents 'chilling' abuses by armed groups in Syria

  • FILE -- This file photo posted on the Twitter page of Syria's al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front on April 1, 2016, shows fighters from al-Qaida's branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, marching toward the northern village of al-Ais in Aleppo province, Syria. London-based Amnesty International said in a report released Tuesday, July 5, 2016, that some opposition groups in Syria have adopted methods of abuse similar to those employed by the government, after documenting a “chilling” wave of torture, abduction and summary killings in insurgent-controlled areas. The rights group says civilians in insurgent-controlled areas are living under the rule of the gun, with widening abuse that often amounts to war crimes. (Al-Nusra Front via AP, File)

    FILE -- This file photo posted on the Twitter page of Syria's al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front on April 1, 2016, shows fighters from al-Qaida's branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, marching toward the northern village of al-Ais in Aleppo province, Syria. London-based Amnesty International said in a report released Tuesday, July 5, 2016, that some opposition groups in Syria have adopted methods of abuse similar to those employed by the government, after documenting a “chilling” wave of torture, abduction and summary killings in insurgent-controlled areas. The rights group says civilians in insurgent-controlled areas are living under the rule of the gun, with widening abuse that often amounts to war crimes. (Al-Nusra Front via AP, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Dec. 14, 2014 file photo provided by the anti-government activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and other rebel factions resting after clashes with Syrian troops in Wadi Deif in the northwestern province of Idlib, Syria. London-based Amnesty International said in a report released Tuesday, July 5, 2016, that some opposition groups in Syria have adopted methods of abuse similar to those employed by the government, after documenting a “chilling” wave of torture, abduction and summary killings in insurgent-controlled areas. (AP Photo/Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, File)

    FILE - In this Dec. 14, 2014 file photo provided by the anti-government activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and other rebel factions resting after clashes with Syrian troops in Wadi Deif in the northwestern province of Idlib, Syria. London-based Amnesty International said in a report released Tuesday, July 5, 2016, that some opposition groups in Syria have adopted methods of abuse similar to those employed by the government, after documenting a “chilling” wave of torture, abduction and summary killings in insurgent-controlled areas. (AP Photo/Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this file photo posted on the Twitter page of Syria's al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front March 28, 2015, which is consistent with AP reporting, a fighter from Syria's al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front holds his group flag in front of an Idlib governorate building in Idlib province, north Syria. London-based Amnesty International said in a report released Tuesday, July 5, 2016, that some opposition groups in Syria have adopted methods of abuse similar to those employed by the government, after documenting a “chilling” wave of torture, abduction and summary killings in insurgent-controlled areas. The rights group said civilians in insurgent-controlled areas are living under the rule of the gun, with widening abuse that often amounts to war crimes. (Al-Nusra Front Twitter page via AP, File)

    FILE - In this file photo posted on the Twitter page of Syria's al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front March 28, 2015, which is consistent with AP reporting, a fighter from Syria's al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front holds his group flag in front of an Idlib governorate building in Idlib province, north Syria. London-based Amnesty International said in a report released Tuesday, July 5, 2016, that some opposition groups in Syria have adopted methods of abuse similar to those employed by the government, after documenting a “chilling” wave of torture, abduction and summary killings in insurgent-controlled areas. The rights group said civilians in insurgent-controlled areas are living under the rule of the gun, with widening abuse that often amounts to war crimes. (Al-Nusra Front Twitter page via AP, File)  (The Associated Press)

Some Syrian opposition groups have adopted methods of abuse similar to those employed by the government of President Bashar Assad, Amnesty International said in a report Tuesday, in which it documented a "chilling" wave of torture, abductions and summary killings in insurgent-controlled areas.

The report is based on interviews with some 70 individuals living or working in the northern provinces of Idlib and parts of Aleppo, areas controlled by insurgents.

The abuses were committed over four years by five armed groups, including some backed by the U.S and other regional powers, and al-Qaida's branch in Syria, Amnesty said.

"While some civilians in areas controlled by armed opposition groups may at first have welcomed an escape from brutal Syrian government rule, hopes that these armed groups would respect rights have faded as they have increasingly taken the law into their own hands and committed serious abuses," said Philip Luther, director of Amnesty's Middle East program.

The report documents at least 24 abductions of activists, ethnic and religious minorities, as well as three children, two of whom remain missing as of last week.

Amnesty also documented summary killings by gunfire, some in public, of pro-government fighters, which it said constitute war crimes. It called on international backers to cease arms transfers to groups implicated in abuse.

Some people were abducted because of their criticism of the armed groups or simply for playing music. Media activists reported receiving threats for critical reporting. Some said they were suspended for hours from their wrists or were squeezed into a tire with their hands bound behind their backs and beaten, methods of torture also used by the Syrian government.

One of the groups, Ahrar al-Sham, said in a letter that it would like to meet with Amnesty to clarify the issues. It did not respond to the allegations.