Will rebels follow vow against brutality?
(CNN) — The rebel battalions and commanders battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime are signing a “code of conduct” pledging to refrain from torture and other human rights abuses, an opposition group said Wednesday.
More than two dozen Free Syrian Army officials have signed the documents, just days after an uproar over reports that a unit called the Tawheed brigade claimed responsibility for executing pro-regime members of the Berri clan in Aleppo, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.
Rafif Jouejati, the LCC English-language spokeswoman, said some of the content in the code had been in development for months by human rights experts and the LCC and FSA. But the work was accelerated in the wake of the executions last week, she said.
The al-Assad regime has been widely condemned for torture and other human rights abuses. But as the rebel army has evolved, reports have surfaced of mistreatment by rebel fighters as well, including CNN’s own reporting on a rebel-run prison last week. The reported executions last week highlighted fears that rebels are intent on revenge killings and sectarian retribution.
“As the ranks of the Free Syrian Army expand and its brave fighters fight a national, multi-front battle, there has become a need for rules to govern their work. These rules must combine the spirit of the national duty they carry out today in facing the aggressor, Bashar Al-Assad and his regime, and moving towards the regime’s ouster and the interests of justice and military discipline,” the LCC said.
A Syrian rebel prepares his weapon as a group of Free Syrian Army fighters head toward the fighting with Syrian Army soldiers in the Salah ad-Din neighborhood of central Aleppo on Sunday, August 5.
Syrians evacuate a civilian wounded in shelling in the northern city of Aleppo on Saturday, August 4. Syria’s armed forces pounded Aleppo’s rebel-held Salah ad-Din district with air and ground fire as violence also raged in the Shaar and Sukkari districts, according to reporters in the area and a rebel commander.
A vehicle burns as Syrians walk through debris from clashes between Syrian armed forces and rebels in the northern city of Aleppo on Saturday, August 4.
A boy plays on the gun of a destroyed Syrian army tank partially covered in the rubble of the destroyed Azaz mosques, north of the restive city of Aleppo, on Thursday, August 2.
Smoke rises from Al-Safsaf in Homs on Friday, August 3.
A boy plays with an AK-47 rifle owned by his father in Azaz, some 29 miles north of Aleppo on Friday, August 3.
Syrians climb on an abandoned Syrian army tank north of Aleppo on Thursday, August 2.
A man looks at a destroyed Syrian army compound in Azaz, 29 miles north of Aleppo on Friday, August 3.
A Syrian refugee walks at the Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, on Friday, August 3.
People and a member of the Free Syrian Army commute on Wednesday, August 1, past a building on the outskirts of Idlib that was hit by rocket fire Tuesday night by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Unrest spread across other volatile regions of the country as al-Assad’s forces shelled targets and launched raids in and around Damascus, Homs, Daraa and Deir Ezzor.
A woman and child on Wednesday walk through rubble of a building destroyed by shelling from forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo.
Demonstrators hold an opposition flag during a protest Wednesday against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.
Syrian girls on Wednesday walk past a Syrian army tank captured two days earlier by rebel fighters at a checkpoint in the village of Anadan. The strategic checkpoint secures the rebel fighters free movement between the northern city of Aleppo and Turkey.
Rebel Free Syrian Army fighters capture a policeman who they allege is a “Shabiha” or pro-regime militiaman, on Tuesday, July 31, as the rebels overrun a police station in Aleppo.
Rebel fighters load an anti-aircraft machine gun on an armored vehicle in Atareb, east of Syria’s second-largest city, Aleppo, on Tuesday, July 31.
Syrian boys run near a building hit by bullets and fire in Atareb.
A member of the Free Syrian Army fires at forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad in a district of Aleppo called Salah Edinne on Tuesday.
A member of the Free Syrian Army carries an injured civilian to safety in Aleppo’s district of Salah Edinne on Tuesday.
Members of the Free Syrian Army learn that a tank belonging to forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad is heading to the area.
A Syrian boy carries bags of bread as people wait outside a bakery near Syria’s second-largest city, Aleppo.
A photo released by Syrian Arab News Agency depicts damaged buildings in Homs on Monday, July 30.
A Free Syrian Army fighter takes position Sunday, July 29, in Aleppo as people flee shelling. Intense clashes have been under way for more than a week between the regime and rebels in Aleppo, Syria’s commercial and cultural center.
Parts of Syria’s largest city saw the fiercest clashes yet in the country’s 16-month crisis on Saturday, July 28. About 200,000 people have fled fighting in Aleppo and surrounding areas in the past two days, a U.N. official says.
Fighting leaves vehicles damaged Saturday in the southwestern city of Daraa.
Syrians carry the body of a man allegedly killed in the bombardment of Sukari, southwest of Aleppo, by Syrian regime forces on July 27.
Destruction appears widespread in Homs on Friday, July 27, in a handout photo from the Syrian opposition Shaam News Network.
A Syrian opposition fighter takes aim during clashes with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo on Wednesday, July 25.
Family and friends mourn over the body of Usame Mircan, who they say was killed by a Syrian government sniper in Aleppo on Wednesday.
Usame Mircan’s mother grieves after he was killed during fighting in Aleppo.
The bodies of men killed during clashes between Syrian rebel fighters and goverment forces lie on the Aleppo street on Thursday, July 26.
Fighters from the Syrian opposition rest at a former primary school in Aleppo on Wednesday.
Residents take cover as fighters from the Syrian opposition clash with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo on Wednesday.
Syrian rebels guard a checkpoint in Aleppo on Wednesday.
A damaged portrait of President Bashar al-Assad sits among piles of debris at a checkpoint manned by Syrian rebels in Aleppo on Wednesday.
Syrian rebels drive through Selehattin near Aleppo during clashes with government forces on Monday, July 23.
A Syrian rebel runs through the streets of Selehattin during an attack on a municipal building. The rebel Free Syrian Army says it is attempting to “liberate” several districts of Aleppo.
Syrian rebels work to find snipers during clashes Monday between the opposition and government forces in Selehattin.
Syrian rebels make their way down a street Monday in Selehattin near Aleppo. If they gain control of Aleppo, it would mark a pivotal point in the Syrian crisis.
Syrian rebels take cover behind sandbags during fighting Monday at the entrance to the city of Selehattin.
On Sunday, July 22, a Syrian refugee looks out from a bus as he arrives at a refugee camp in Turkey opposite the Syrian commercial crossing point Bab al-Hawa.
Syrian refugees flee from a refugee camp nicknamed “Container City” on the Turkish-Syrian border in Kilis province, southern Turkey, on Sunday.
A mortar shell falls toward the Syrian village of Jbatha Al-khashab, about 45 kilometers (28 miles) south of Damascus. It’s seen from the Israeli side of the border, in the Golan Heights.
Smoke from artillery shelling rises above Jbatha Al-khashab.
An armed Syrian rebel wearing the jersey of FC Barcelona rests with comrades near the northern city of Aleppo on Sunday. The rebel Free Syrian Army announced the start of the battle to “liberate” Aleppo, Syria’s commercial hub and a traditional bastion of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
A Free Syrian Army soldier rips a portrait of President Bashar al-Assad at the Bab Al-Salam border crossing to Turkey on Sunday.
Dozens of Turkish truck drivers on Saturday, July 21, accused Free Syrian Army rebels of having burned and looted their lorries as they captured Syria’s Bab al-Hawa post, near Aleppo, from government troops.
In this photo released by the Shaam News Network, a truck burns after shelling in the Erbeen suburb of Damascus on Saturday, July 21.
Refugees fleeing the violence in Syria arrive by bus in Baghdad, Iraq, on Saturday.
Turkish soldiers stand guard at the Cilvegozu border gate in Reyhanly that connects to Syria’s Bab al-Hawa post. An estimated 120,000 people have fled Syria to Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.
Burned-out trucks at the Bab al-Hawa Syrian border post with Turkey on Friday, July 20. Syrian rebels seized control of the post after a fierce battle with Syrian troops, an AFP photographer at the scene reported.
Syrian soldiers celebrate in the al-Midan area in Damascus on Friday. Syrian regime forces routed rebel fighters from the Damascus neighbourhood of Midan, Syrian state television reported, saying troops had “cleaned” the district of “terrorists.”
Journalists are shown a dead body on a government tour of the al-Midan area in Damascus on Friday.
Members of Syria security forces rest in the al-Midan area in Damascus on Friday.
Syrian army soldiers hang their national flag in a partially destroyed neighborhood in the al-Midan area in Damascus.
Smoke hangs in the air in a partially destroyed neighborhood in the al-Midan area in Damascus.
Members of Syria security forces pose for photographers in the al-Midan area in Damascus after driving out the rebel fighters.
Syrian residents take goods from a truck that rebels captured at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey on Friday.
A picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency on July 19 shows Syrian General Fahd al-Freij meeting with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus after his swearing-in ceremony as defense minister.
A man holds up a picture of President Bashar al-Assad at a former police station in Atareb after clashes between Syrian soldiers and Free Syrain Army near Aleppo on Thursday, July 19. Rebels seized control of border crossings with Iraq on Thursday, dealing a new blow to al-Assad, as China and Russia dismayed the West by blocking U.N. action against his regime.
jpg” width=”640″ height=”360″ alt=”People walk along the street in Atareb amidst damage caused by clashed between Syrian soldiers and the Free Syrian Army.” border=”0″ /People walk along the street in Atareb amidst damage caused by clashed between Syrian soldiers and the Free Syrian Army.
A Syrian man checks the former police station of Syrian regime after a clash at Atareb on Thursday.
Smoke ascends from from alleged shelling of the Syrian village of Jebata al-Khashab as seen from the hill village of Buqaata in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on Thursday.
The death toll in Syria on July 12 reached 287, making it the bloodiest day in Syria since the uprising began. As it has done consistently, Syrian state television blamed “armed terrorist groups” for the killings.
A Syrian woman sits with her grandson outside a damaged building after attacks in the Syrian village of Treimsa on July 13, 2012. More than 200 people were massacred in the town, according to activists.
A Syrian demonstrator holds an opposition flag during a protest in Damascus on July 2, 2012. There have been increasing reports of violence in the Syrian capital.
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad waves as he arrives for a speech to Syria’s parliament in Damascus on June 3, 2012. The embattled president denied that government forces were behind the “outrageous” massacre in Houla.
People gather at a mass burial on May 26, 2012 for victims reportedly killed during an artillery barrage from Syrian forces in Houla. The attack left at least 108 people dead, including nearly 50 children, according to the United Nations.
Members of the Free Syrian Army return to Qusayr on May 12, 2012 after an attack on Syrian regime forces in the village of Nizareer, near the Lebanese border in Homs.
A U.N. observer speaks with Syrian rebels and civilians in the village of Azzara on May 4, 2012, days before the country’s parlianemtary polls were held against a backdrop of unrest.
Thousands of Syrians wave their national flag and hold portraits of President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanon’s Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, right, during a rally to show support for their leader on March 29, 2012 in Damascus.
Syrian rebel fighters man a checkpoint leading into the town of Taftanaz in the rebel stronghold province of Idlib on March 20, 2012.
A Free Syrian Army rebel mounts his steed in the Al-Shatouria village near the Turkish border in northwestern Syria on March 16, 2012, a year after the uprising began. The Free Syrian Army is an armed opposition group made up largely of military defectors.
Syrian refugees walk across a field before crossing into Turkey on March 14, 2012. International mediator Kofi Annan called for an immediate halt to the killing of civilians in Syria as he arrived in Turkey for talks on the crisis.
A day after the twin suicide bombings, Syrian mourners pray over the coffins of the 44 people killed during a mass funeral in Damascus.
A Syrian man who was wounded in a suicide attack rests at a hospital in Damascus on December 23, 2011. Suicide bombers hit two security service bases in the Syrian capital, killing dozens of people.
Arab foreign ministers attend an emergency meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on October 16, 2011, to discuss the crisis in Syria.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to the media in Washington on August 18, 2011. Clinton said U.S. sanctions on Syrian oil “strike at the heart of the Syrian regime.”
Syrian youths wave national flags while army troops drive out of Daraa on May 5, 2011. During a week-long military lockdown of the town, dozens of people were reportedly killed in what activists described as “indiscriminate” shelling on the city.
Syrians in Damascus protest in the street on March 25, 2011, after clashes with government forces in Daraa left several dead.
Supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rally on April 1 in Istanbul, Turkey, as delegates from dozens of countries gather to push for ways to end the deadly violence in Syria. The United Nations estimates more than 10,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the crisis in March 2011. The conflict is now being labeled a civil war by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Photos: Showdown in Syria
Ex-Syrian prime minister now in Jordan
Lack of doctors leaves wounded suffering
Rebels struggle to unify as revenge rules
Read more: Syria timeline — From uprising to civil war
The code says the rebel army will use weapons “to overthrow the criminal regime that has been imposed upon us,” but at the same time, it pledges to “refrain from any behavior or practice that would undermine the principles of our revolution: the principles of freedom, citizenship, and dignity.
“I will respect human rights in accordance with our legal principles, our tolerant religious principles, and the international laws governing human rights — the very human rights for which we struggle today and which we intend to implement in the future Syria,” the code said.
The pledge calls for shunning “any form of torture, rape, mutilation, or degradation,” preserving prisoners’ rights, rejecting “physical torture or murder of prisoners or informants,” and says army members should “not participate in any public execution.”
Also, fighters who take the pledge vowed not to issue “any executive orders, particularly with regard to death or corporal punishment” and promised to heed the legal system to determine guilt or innocence of people.
“Any person who takes up arms in the name of the regime, regardless of their rank, should be arrested and remain in the custody of the Free Syrian Army. In the event that an individual is arrested, and it is determined that the individual was working for the regime, voluntarily or for payment, to supply information about revolutionary activists, that individual shall be considered a prisoner and treated in accordance with laws governing prisoners of war,” the code said.
The code says people should use their arms only to defend people in the fight. They shouldn’t use weapons against activists or civilians, no matter what their opinions are, and not use weaponry against any Syrian citizens. It calls for shunning “theft or looting on the pretext” of “helping to finance the armed struggle” and taking people hostage for ransom.
It also calls “for a pledge not to exercise reprisals on the basis of ethnicity, sect, religion, or any other basis, and to refrain from any abusive practices, in word or in deed, against any component of the Syrian people.”
The fighters also have to pledge to surrender their weaponry to a “Transitional Authority, which will manage the country’s affairs during the transitional period after the fall of the regime.”
People who violate the code also agree to submit to a fair trial “under the supervision of the Free Syrian Army’s leadership and monitored by an independent judiciary body.”
The LCC said “these ethics and principles represent the essence of our revolution and its moral and national foundation.”
There are nearly 30 “initial signatories,” including Lt. Col. Muhannad Ahmad Al-Talaa, commander of the Military Council of Deir Ezzor, Col. Qassim Saad Eddin, commander of the Military Council in Homs, and Capt. Ali Shakerdi of the al-Amjad Battalion in Aleppo.