Several prominent Syrian human rights organisations and civil society groups have urged the United States’ top diplomat to the United Nations to launch an investigation into the killing of 41 civilians in the neighbourhood of Tadamon in Syria’s capital Damascus in 2013.
“We are writing to demand immediate action to address this massacre, which amounts to a war crime, and hold perpetrators accountable at the UN Security Council,” read a letter to Linda Thomas-Greenfield and published by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) on Monday.
The network also called on the US to convene a meeting at the Council during its presidency in May and launch an independent probe.
The SNHR’s appeal comes nearly two weeks after a leaked video appeared to show evidence of gruesome crimes committed by Syrian forces.
The distressing footage shows blindfolded and handcuffed civilians being told to run towards an execution ditch lying just in front of them in one of the capital’s southern suburbs.
It also shows intelligence officers of the infamous Branch 227 smiling and laughing as they assassinate the men before pouring gasoline over their bodies in the pit and setting it ablaze to hide the evidence.
The Tadamon district at the time was a battlefront between Syrian government forces against opposition forces.
A horrified military recruit filmed the vicious incident and leaked the video, date-stamped April 16, 2013, after fleeing war-torn Syria.
Syrian activists and international human rights organisations have accused the Syrian government and its allies of committing atrocities in the country’s uprising turned-civil war.
Throughout the 11-year-long war, an estimated 500,000 people have been killed and millions displaced. Syria today is reeling from a crippling economic crisis, while President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus remains in power with military support from Russia, Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah.
“Never before have we seen such clear evidence of a war crime committed and videotaped by Assad’s intelligence services in broad daylight, in cold blood, with no regard for the humanity of the victims or concern for consequences,” read the SNHR statement.
The release of the video footage has triggered an outcry, with some families recognising their relatives being executed in the video.
“Many Syrians are rightfully expressing outrage about the lack of response from the international community to such a shocking report, especially in the context of similar crimes being committed by Russian forces in Ukraine,” the SNHR added, referring to the alleged war crimes committed since Russia invaded its neighbouring country on February 24.
“It’s high time that the international community learned that impunity for grave human rights violations in Syria has far-reaching consequences beyond its borders,” the SNHR said.
More than 100,000 Syrians are missing, according to advocacy groups, including tens of thousands of children. The Syrian government holds the majority of them, but many families await the fate of missing loved ones who ISIL (ISIS) and other armed groups detained.