A Media Lens reader, “Peter”, succinctly explains that Amnesty is, as of this month, still not willing to call for an arms embargo on the Syrian rebels as it does for the Assad regime and for Palestinians resisting Israel’s occupation. In short, Amnesty’s hypocrisy is even more stunning that it was when I debated this with them last year.
Given Amnesty’s clear bias, its accounts of Syrian rebel atrocities, grim as they are, are likely to be understated.
What follows is from Peter.
The [latest] report, in Amnesty's own words, leaves 'no doubt that armed opposition groups are responsible for a large number of summary killings and other egregious crimes'. It goes on to say that:
'The main targets for these summary killings are members of the various government armed and security forces, the shadowy pro-government militias known as shabiha, as well as suspected informers or collaborators (widely referred to by the opposition as mukhbireen and ‘awayniyeh). Many were civilians, including journalists working for pro-government media and members of minority communities perceived by members of armed opposition groups as loyal to President Bashar al-Assad such as Shi’a or Alawite Muslims'.
It then adds that
'In addition to summary killings, various armed opposition groups including some affiliated to the FSA, are committing other war crimes and serious human rights abuses, including indiscriminate attacks which have led to civilian casualties; use of children in a military capacity; torture or other ill treatment of captives; sectarian threats and attacks against minority communities perceived as pro-government; abductions and the holding of hostages'.
That is, the report documents various crimes and atrocities that are at least as bad as anything any of the Palestinian armed groups have done over the last few years, likely with a much higher death toll.
Are Amnesty, then, finally going to call for an arms embargo on the armed Syrian rebel factions, just like they've called for an arms embargo on the armed Palestinian rebel factions?
Not a bit of it. In their 'Recommendations' section, which basically concludes the report, they peddle the same line that they've been peddling for a year or so now. Namely, that:
'Amnesty International urges any state considering supplying arms to armed opposition groups in Syria to first carry out a rigorous human rights risk assessment and establish a robust monitoring process which would enable all arms transfer proposals to be carefully considered before any approval is granted. The monitoring mechanism should recommend strong mitigation measures to be adopted in relation to a potential recipient so as to remove any substantial risk the arms would be misused for serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law'.
In summary, 'Hey Saudi Arabia/Qatar/U.S./U.K. – supply weapons if you want, just try and make sure that the recipients live up to the human rights norms that our own report makes clear many of them don't adhere to or respect, and that you don't adhere to or respect yourselves. P.S. Don't give anything to those criminal Palestinian terrorists'.
Their positions on arms transfers in relation to the two conflicts do seem irreconcilable to me, and the hunch has to be that they're basically following Power – power wants the Syrian rebels armed, so Amnesty doesn't call for an arms embargo, despite the serious abuses and war crimes they themselves have documented; Power doesn't want to the Palestinian rebels armed, and so they call for a strict arms embargo, with no ifs, buts or maybes.