Syrian women, children held hostage for a year

Beirut - Syrian fighters have held 54 women and children hostage for an entire year, a rights group said Wednesday, urging they be freed and warning that holding civilians can amount to a war crime.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the group was captured in the coastal province of Latakia during an opposition offensive a year ago.

Another group of 40 hostages was released in May as part of a deal that allowed Syrian opposition forces safe passage out of the besieged Old City of Homs.

But the group of 54, which includes 34 children, was still being held, apparently "with the intention of compelling government actions, including exchanging the hostages for detainees in government custody", HRW said.

"For a year families have been waiting to be reunited while rebel groups and the government negotiate over their fate", said HRW's Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson.

"Civilian lives are not pawns for fighters to trade. The hostages should be let go immediately."

It is unclear which groups are holding the 54 captives, with HRW saying at least 20 separate opposition forces took part in the Latakia offensive last August.

HRW said it had identified several individuals, mostly from Gulf countries, who had fundraised for the Latakia operation and warned that citizens or countries that backed groups involved in hostage-taking could be complicit in war crimes.

The group also repeated its call for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

"Referring Syria to the ICC would send a clear message to all combatants that they must abide by the laws of war", Whitson said.

"Civilians in Syria on all sides have paid dearly for Russia and China's obstructionism" in the UN Security Council on the issue of referring to the conflict to the court, she added.

More than 170 000 people have been killed in Syrian since the conflict began in March 2011.

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Binte Maya 2014/08/06 03:23:32 PM
May all their difficulties come to an end very soon.. they deserve to be free from this violence and madness!!
Sejouse Freedom 2014/08/06 03:25:12 PM
Looks like 1974 eastern movie with alot of Ninja warriors.
Deon Louw 2014/08/06 03:27:20 PM
So who is up for a march to free Syria? No one.
Likeitis 2014/08/06 03:30:45 PM
Are these the same guys that Uncle Sam is backing?
Sisie Indola 2014/08/06 03:32:04 PM
So where is the protests marches, the shouting from the tree tops, the big mouths, the uproar etc....what your silence is deafening! Hypocrites!
Leon Young 2014/08/06 03:39:48 PM
And nobody will say anything about this!
Raeesa Sayed 2014/08/06 04:39:17 PM
For atheitis -
Yusuf Moola 2014/08/06 04:47:42 PM
I gree Mohammed
Binte Maya 2014/08/06 04:49:47 PM
Yes raeesa.. I agree with you 100%
Binte Maya 2014/08/06 04:56:40 PM
However Mohammed also has a valid point.. we should try our best to defend our religion as well..In the best manner possible! but remember the more we come on deen and good actions.. we will have the help of the Allmighty on our side.. remember ppl have insulted the prophet in his lifetime as well.. this has been happening for years and unfortunately will continue.. do not be despondent on hearing ridiculous comments.. for it is only Allah who gives honour and disgrace..