In a report released on July 9, HRW quoted a defector as saying that two
soldiers who refused live fire orders were shot and killed. The report,
titled "Syria: Defectors Describe Orders to Shoot Unarmed Protesters," said
the slain soldiers had been deployed in the southern city of Dera, the focus
of the revolt
against President Bashar Assad in April and May.
The attacks by the Assad regime usually consisted of teams of army and
plainclothes security personnel. A former member of the Presidential Guard
recalled being given an AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifle and electric taser
to fight what commanders termed street gangs in the Damascus suburb of
"We couldn't see any gangs, just civilians, including some women and
children, in the street, and members of the mukhabarat [intelligence units]
firing at them," a defector told HRW. "We received clear orders to shoot at
civilians from the Presidential Guard officers and from the 4th military
Battalion, although normally we don't get orders from other units. One of
the officers who gave orders was Maj. Mujahed Ali Hassan from 4th Battalion;
his military vehicle license plate is 410. The exact orders were 'load and
The defector recalled that when he reached five meters from the
protest, he and four other soldiers ran to join the demonstrators. He said
the defectors threw their weapons to the opposition gathering.
Another defector recalled an order from Col. Abdul Hamid Ibrahim for
army, air force and Alawite mercenaries to fire toward protesters in Homs on
19. The defector said the protesters did not have weapons and were sitting
in the square of the city.
"We were shooting for more than half an hour," the unnamed defector
said. "There were dozens and dozens of people killed and wounded. Thirty
minutes later, earth diggers and fire trucks arrived. The diggers lifted the
bodies and put them in a truck. I don't know where they took them. The
wounded ended up at the military hospital in Homs. And then the fire trucks
started cleaning the square."
The Syrian opposition has asserted that at least 1,600 civilians and 350
soldiers were killed in the four months of the uprising. HRW said it
interviewed officers who served in Aleppo, Damascus, Dera, Homs and Izra
and later fled to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
"Syrian soldiers and officials should know that they too have not just a
right but a duty to refuse such unlawful orders, and that those who
deliberately kill or injure peaceful protesters will be subject to
prosecution," Ms. Whitson said.