Syrian rebels sign battlefield 'code of conduct'

Reuters , Wednesday 8 Aug 2012

Prominent Syrian rebel fighters sign 'code of conduct' pledging not to rape, torture or kill civilians after footage is released showing pro-Assad militiamen executed

A number of prominent Syrian rebel fighters have signed a 'code of conduct' committing them to observe human rights in their battle to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, a week after video footage showed rebels executing pro-Assad militiamen in Aleppo.

The code, which activists said was signed by leaders of several rebel brigades, included pledges not to rape, torture or kill captives.

Free Syrian Army rebels will "respect human rights in accordance with our legal principles, our tolerant religious principles and the international laws governing human rights," it said.

Any soldier or Assad supporter captured by the rebels should be treated in accordance with laws governing prisoners of war.

"I pledge not to practice any form of torture, rape, mutilation or degradation. I will observe prisoners' rights and will not exercise any of the above practices in order to abstain confessions," the rebel code said.

Rights groups have accused Assad's forces of committing violations including torture and killing of captives. But last week footage emerged showing rebels executing four suspected "Shabbiha" militiamen, loyal to Assad, in Aleppo, with fighters gloating over the bodies in a police station overrun by rebels.

The Aleppo-based Tawheed brigade, believed to have captured the men who were shot dead in Aleppo last week, was not on the list of signatories, which included fighters from Deraa, Deir al-Zor, Sweida, Hama and Homs.

The leader of one of the brigades confirmed to Reuters he had signed the accord, but said he did not consider the commitments in the code to be binding.

Another rebel said his brigade refused to sign the conduct because they had reservations over some of its articles. He refused to specify.

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