• Human Rights Watch reports kidnap, torture and executions
• Russia backs Red Cross calls for daily ceasefire
• Funeral of Coptic Pope Shenouda III in Cairo
9.05am: Much of the evidence compiled by Human Rights Watch of serious human rights abuses by Syrian rebels is based on video footage, as well testimony from rebels themselves.
Here’s its summary of what the videos show:
On January 26 the Al-Farouq battalion claimed responsibility for capturing seven Iranian nationals, five of whom appeared in video footage claiming to be members of the Iranian armed forces. In an interview on February 22 with Human Rights Watch the Al-Farouq battalion media coordinator said that the other two people detained are civilians but that they were detained because no Persian speaker was available when the Iranians were detained and that their civilian status was only confirmed later.
Human Rights Watch has reviewed at least 25 videos on YouTube in which Syrian security forces or their alleged supporters confess to crimes under circumstances in which it appears that their statements were made under duress. At least 18 of these videos show detainees who are bruised, bleeding, or show other signs of physical abuse. Human Rights Watch cannot independently confirm the authenticity of these videos.
Other video footage reviewed by Human Rights Watch and information received in interviews indicates that members of armed opposition groups have executed people in their custody whom they suspected of crimes against the opposition.
One video [warning: distubring content] released on YouTube on 4 February, shows a man hung from a tree by his neck in front of several armed fighters. Commentary indicates that he is a shabiha fighter captured and executed by the FSA Kafr Takharim battalion on 22 January. In a second video [warning: disturbing content] which appears to have been released by the FSA Al-Farouq battalion on YouTube, a person identified as a member of Air Force Intelligence based in Homs is interrogated and confesses to shooting at protesters.
8.28am: (all times GMT) Welcome to Middle East Live. Human Rights Watch has accused Syrian rebels of carrying out abuses including kidnap, torture and executions, as analysts claim the opposition is moving to a more violent phase.
Here’s a roundup of the latest developments:
• Armed opposition elements have carried out serious human rights abuses including kidnap, torture and executions, according to Human Rights Watch. Sarah Leah Whitson, the organisation’s Middle East director said: “Opposition leaders should make it clear to their followers that they must not torture, kidnap, or execute under any circumstances.”
• Syria analyst Joshua Landis claims the opposition is moving to a more violent stage. Writing on his blog, Syria Comment he says:
The coming “phase II” insurgency will be characterised by: the creation of cell-networks that maintain secrecy. Terrorism: these techniques include bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, threats, mutilation, murder, torture, and blackmail. These actions will be used to provoke the government into overreactions that discredit the regime, alienate the populace, and demonstrate its inability to protect them.
The Free Syrian Army, made up largely of defectors, has suffered major setbacks in the Baba Amr district of Homs and in Idlib in recent days. It made the mistake, as a guerrilla force, of trying to take and hold territory. Monday’s engagement in Damascus was better planned, as an operation showing the other Syrians that the oppositionists have hardly disappeared. The revolutionaries got off a rocket propelled grenade attack on the mansion of an officer. The building from which they fought sustained major damage from regime attacks.
• Russia has backed Red Cross calls for daily humanitarian ceasefires in Syria, Russia Today reports. After a meeting in Moscow between ICRC president Jakob Kelleberger and Russia foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, Russia agreed to the following statement:
The two parties call for the Syrian government and all armed groups opposing it to immediately agree on a daily humanitarian ceasefire to allow the ICRC and the Red Crescent access to the wounded and to civilians who need to be evacuated.
• Syria’s first lady, Asma al-Assad, is to be added to a European Union sanctions blacklist after details of her online shopping sprees were revealed by leaked emails, according to the Daily Telegraph. European diplomats said the decision would be taken on Friday at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.
• Syria foreign ministry spokesman claims the opposition needs a Nelson Mandela figure who is willing to negotiate with the regime. Jihad Makdissi, told the Guardian columnist Jonathan Steele:
No one dares to confront the street and say we need dialogue. You need a statesman, a Nelson Mandela, who can say, I’ve suffered. I’ve been in prison but I’m willing to talk.
• Leaks of what appear to be official Syrian documents reveal how president Assad, personally signs off plans drawn up by his government’s crisis management centre, prioritising a security crackdown to prevent protests against his regime spreading to Damascus. Hundreds of pages of confidential papers shown to al-Jazeera TV by a defector describe daily meetings of the heads of all Syria’s security and intelligence agencies, who review events and issue orders that are then approved by the president.
• Big crowds are expected in Cairo for the funeral of Coptic Pope Shenouda III, who died on Saturday, the BBC reports. A service will be held at St Mark’s cathedral, followed by burial at St Bishoy monastery in the Nile Delta.
from Matthew Weaver