Syrian soldiers targeting fleeing civilians: rights group


Human Rights Watch on Wednesday urged Syrian authorities to end the “indiscriminate” shootings of civilians fleeing to Jordan and other neighboring countries.

“Syrian soldiers on the border with Jordan appear to be shooting indiscriminately at anyone -- including civilian women and children - trying to flee from Syria,” the U.S.-based HRW said in a statement.

“Syrian authorities should immediately order its armed forces on the border to end all indiscriminate attacks and take all feasible measures to avoid injuries to civilians crossing into neighboring countries, and to respect their right to leave the country.”

Jordan is hosting more than 120,000 Syrians, of whom 20,000 are registered with the United Nations.

There are another 38,000 refugees in Turkey, 22,000 in Lebanon and 3,129 in Iraq, according to the UN refugee agency and officials in those countries.

“Syria says it is fighting armed terrorists, yet its border forces appear to shoot at everyone crossing the border without distinction, attacking civilian men, women, children and the wounded the same way they attack fighters,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher and advocate for HRW.

“Syria is forcing its own desperate civilians to crawl out of their country under a hail of bullets,” he said.

“By indiscriminately attacking civilians fleeing across its borders, Syria violates fundamental human rights, including the right to life, the right to leave one's country, and the right to seek asylum in another country.”

HRW said it spoke to dozens of Syrian refugees in Jordan and Iraq who came under fire while fleeing.

“All of the refugees described incidents in which the Syrian army opened fire without warning, and fired on everyone who was crossing the border, (rebel) FSA fighters and civilian men, women and children alike,” the statement said.

An army defector told HRW that border guards had orders “to shoot at anyone trying to leave or enter the country without passing through an official border post, and that some of the soldiers refused to carry out the order,” it added.

HRW said some families managed to bribe guards at the crossing with Jordan to let them leave Syria, paying around $470 per family.