World and Nation

UN warns Syrian rebels over human rights violations

BEIRUT — The top U.N. human rights official warned opposition fighters in Syria on Monday that they would not be immune from prosecution for atrocities, as videos from the Syrian city of Aleppo appeared to show a mass execution by rebel fighters of bound and blindfolded Syrian government soldiers.

One of the videos, first publicized Monday on the Brown Moses blog, which curates and analyzes video evidence from Syria, showed at least 20 corpses lying in a crooked row on a bloodstained street curb. The victims wore fatigues but no shoes. Several appeared to have been shot in the head.

In that video and another that captured the same scene, different rebel groups appear to take responsibility for the killings. It was impossible to immediately confirm the authenticity of the videos, or to determine exactly when and where they were recorded. If confirmed, the executions were likely to add to growing concerns about the conduct of the militias fighting to topple the Syrian president, Bashar Assad, and particularly their treatment of prisoners.

In a brutal episode in late July, a group of rebel fighters were seen in a video executing several captives — members of an Aleppo family accused of being enforcers for the government — with a spray of gunfire. In recent days, other videos have captured summary executions by the rebels.

Speaking in Geneva on Monday, Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for human rights, warned of atrocities by both the government and its opponents. Both, she said, “deploy snipers that target civilians.”

Pillay also said the Syrian government’s attacks on civilians and destruction of homes “may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity,” according to a transcript of Pillay’s remarks on her office’s website. And in a stern warning directed at anti-government forces, Pillay noted the “undoubted climb in human rights violations” attributed to the rebels, including abductions and summary executions.