Last Updated: Fri May 25, 2012 09:54 am (KSA) 06:54 am (GMT)

Free Syrian Army says ‘protecting protests’ its top priority

Members of the Free Syrian Army attend a meeting with United Nations monitors in Rasten. (Reuters)
Members of the Free Syrian Army attend a meeting with United Nations monitors in Rasten. (Reuters)

The opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) has said the “protection of peaceful protests” is its top priority, as it outlined its goals and structure in declaration released on Thursday.

The rebel group, made up largely of dissidents from the regular army, also listed among its priorities “helping the Syrian people obtain their freedom” and referring to international courts those responsible for “war crimes against the Syrian people.”

The statement bears the title “Founding Declaration” and also explains the structure of the rebel army fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The rebel force consists of a temporary military council whose members are officers with the rank of major and above, and whose leader is elected by the council for a three-month period which can be renewed only once, it said.

The FSA also pledged total commitment to international standards of human rights and said that its members and officers are banned from membership in any political or religious faction.

It also promised it would not “intervene in the political process after the fall of the Assad regime.”

The statement came as the main opposition Syrian National Council, with which the FSA is affiliated, accepted the resignation of its first leader, Paris-based academic Burhan Ghalioun.

Ghalioun told AFP that the opposition had failed to live up to the sacrifices of the Syrian people since their uprising against Assad’s rule began in March last year meeting with a deadly crackdown.

“We were not up to the sacrifices of the Syrian people. We did not answer the needs of the revolution enough and quickly enough,” Ghalioun told AFP, adding that the bloc was split between Islamists and secular activists.

Rights abuses

A U.N. investigation on Thursday said both sides in the Syrian conflict had committed serious human rights abuses, with government forces executing entire families in their homes and rebels torturing and killing soldiers and government supporters.

The United Nations report into the 14-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad said government forces routinely drew up lists of wanted people and their families before blockading then attacking a village or neighborhood.

“Entire families were executed in their homes - usually the family members of those opposing the government such as the family members of Colonel Riad al-Asaad,” it said, referring to relatives of the head of the rebel Free Syrian Army.

The rebels, who are increasingly armed and well-organized, have executed or tortured soldiers and government supporters, said the U.N., whose investigators were not allowed into Syria and relied on interviews of victims and witnesses.

Violence has raged despite a U.N.-brokered agreement on April 12 aimed at halting the bloodshed in Syria, where Assad is confronting an uprising which began with peaceful protests but has become increasingly militarized.

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