As the international community, including the United States, wrestles with the idea of entering the Syrian conflict with military force, President Bashar Assad has begun moving inmates to potential target areas to act as human shields, British press reported on Friday.
The Daily Mirror reported that thousands of Syrian inmates have been relocated to areas that are deemed likely military targets. Damascus-area residents said in the report that they saw the inmates being taken by bus from the prison to the sensitive areas.
Syrian National Coalition members put out a statement, reported in Ynet News: “Assad’s fascist regime is amassing activists and civilians in prisons in military locations that may be targets for foreign forces. … Using civilians as human shields is a breach of international humanitarian law and those responsible must be held accountable for crimes against humanity.”
The report said that Mr. Assad’s regime has arrested thousands or protesters, rebel fighters and political dissidents since early 2011, when conflict in the country first began.
A woman with reported knowledge of the inmate relocation said in Ynet News that “people are scared the U.S. will attack places where the prisoners are held. They are afraid as military bases are in built-up areas, so civilians may be caught in attacks. They have seen the civilians killed by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.”