Entries in Executions (4)


Grisly Execution Videos Show Growing Brutality in Syria

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(RAQQA, Syria) -- The camera pans up from three blindfolded men with their hands bound to a rebel fighter speaking into a megaphone. He stands by a white pickup truck, his face covered with a white and red checkered scarf.

In classical Arabic, the man reads out the death sentence of the three men. It lasts one minute and 45 seconds before the man proclaims “God is great” and two of his comrades -- wearing black ski masks -- fire single bullets into each of the three captives’ heads. As they slump over, a crowd erupts in cheers with celebratory gunfire.

In the two years since the war in Syria started, there have been innumerable videos of summary executions, beheadings and the aftermath of massacres. But in recent days, the videos posted online from Syria have highlighted a deepening sectarianism and a brutality never before seen in this conflict.

The execution of the three men, who were officers of the Syrian government, took place in a public square in Raqqa, a northern city controlled by the Sunni, al Qaeda-linked extremist rebel group, Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. The slain men were Alawites, the sect of Shia Islam that President Bashar al-Assad and his most loyal forces belong to.

”We respond to the criminal Bashar who is killing Sunnis everywhere,” the man with the megaphone said. “Now we decided to come close to God by killing those Alawites…”

The speaker in the Raqqa video said the executions were in revenge for -- among other things -- recent massacres in and around the majority Alawite coastal city of Baniyas in early May. There, regime forces are reported to have carried out “cleansing” operations of Sunni areas, slaughtering hundreds of men, women and children. Videos showed rows of dead bodies, shot or stabbed, as well as the charred remains of bodies burned in a building. Many more remain missing, feared dead.

“The fear of ethnic cleansing has increased among all populations of Syria and with good reason,” wrote Syria analyst Joshua Landis at the University of Oklahoma. “Sunnis claim today that the regime is effectively trying to clear many areas of its Sunni inhabitants.”

“If Assad reasserts his control over rebel held parts of Syria, large populations of Sunnis would likewise flee,” Landis continued. “They would fear ruthless retribution and possible massacres.”

The Raqqa public execution clip surfaced just days after another grisly video was posted online of a Sunni rebel commander slicing open the body of a dead regime soldier with a knife, removing his lung and biting into it.  “I swear to God we will eat your hearts and your livers, you soldiers of Bashar the dog,” the man says to the camera.

“Hopefully we will slaughter all of them [Alawites],” the commander, Khalid al-Hamad, later told TIME Magazine, which first uncovered the clip. “I have another video clip that I will send to them. In the clip, I am sawing another shabiha [pro-government militiaman] with a saw. The saw we use to cut trees. I sawed him into small pieces and large ones.”

As the world reacted with horror, the main political Syrian opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, condemned the action and called for the man to be tried. The military wing, the Free Syrian Army said it “completely rejects the ill-treatment of the wounded and the disfigurement of the dead.”

“It is not enough for Syria’s opposition to condemn such behavior or blame it on violence by the government,” said Nadim Houry, the Middle East deputy director of Human Rights Watch. “The opposition forces need to act firmly to stop such abuses.”

The clips have come to light as the U.S. and its allies continue to grapple with the question of arming the rebel forces, worried that any weapons could end up in the hands of extremists. Videos like that of the rebel eating the organs of his enemy have compounded those fears since he is part of what the West considers to be the more mainstream rebel forces, those that would theoretically receive any arms.

Syrian opposition leaders blame the West for the rise in sectarianism and extremists rebel groups like Jabhat al-Nusra which are among the most ferocious groups fighting Assad forces. It could have been stopped, they say, if the more moderate forces had been supported earlier.

Both the execution and “cannibal” videos rocketed around the Internet, creating a firestorm on social networking sites. Opposition activists argue they are isolated incidents not representative of the rebel forces fighting the Assad regime, while supporters of Assad argued that their true character is finally coming to light.

On both sides, many fear the sectarianism is now so deep-seated that Syria will never be able to recover from it.

“Two yrs ago, there was no such thing as decapitation, massacre & cannibalism in Syria,” wrote one Assad supporter on Twitter. “Today these barbaric acts are synonymous to the country.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Death Row Interviews Attract 40 Million Viewers in China

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BEIJING) -- While the rest of the world is watching what happens on American Idol, China has been watching what happens on death row.

For the last five years, a surprising show has been building a steady audience now estimated to be at 40 million viewers. Interviews Before Death is a government-approved television series hosted by a popular young journalist, Ding Yu.

Each week, Ding Yu goes into a prison to interview a man or a woman awaiting execution.  Some of her subjects have just hours left, others have days.  She speaks to them about the mundane facts of life on the inside as well as the gruesome details of the crimes that put them there. Their stories are broadcast in primetime in China’s central Henan province.

Now, the BBC and PBS are airing documentaries that go behind the scenes of filming and production.  The BBC2′s The Execution Factor will air Monday night and Dead Men Talking will be broadcast by PBS International. The latter was produced by the Chinese production company LIC.

PBS warns that the documentary is not for the faint-hearted.

“Almost all of the interviewees are perpetrators of horrific violent crimes, including a gay man who defiled his mother’s dead body after having murdered her; a group of career criminals that mistakenly kidnapped a young girl from a poor family but raped and killed her anyway; and a woman who burned her husband to death after having been physically abused for many years. The issues explored are both intriguing and complex. The subject is brutal and sad. One may even say the series itself is exploitative; however, it is Ding Yu’s passion for truth that is the driving force for the continued production of the series.”

The trailer indicates that emotions run high. Parents are seen saying goodbye to a son. Nearly half of the prisoners Ding Yu interviews are women and many are mothers.

The films also looks at the toll the series took on Ding Yu.  She has interviewed more than 200 men and women on death row.  She has said she pays an emotional price for her work, telling PBS, “I witness their thoughts before death.”

But she also comments freely, at one time coming face to face with a prisoner and telling him, “Fortunately, you are in jail. You are dangerous to society.”

The Chinese government reportedly approved the series on the argument it could be seen as a crime deterrent.  In China, according to the BBC, 55 crimes carry the death penalty.  They range from theft to murder.  Amnesty International believes China to be far and away the world leader in carrying out the death penalty.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Khmer Rouge Trial for Cambodia’s 'Killing Fields' Gets Underway

Hemera/Thinkstock(PHNOM PENH, Cambodia) -- Thirty-three years after the end of the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror in Cambodia left more than a million people dead at the hands of the communist group, three of its former leaders will go on trial Monday.

Some 1.7 million people were either executed or died of starvation in Cambodia from 1975-1979 when the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge forced millions from Cambodia’s cities and tried to turn the country into an agrarian society.  Professionals and the well-educated were considered threats to the regime and were imprisoned, tortured and often slain and dumped into mass graves that became known as the killing fields.

Nuon Chea, the right-hand man of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, Khieu Samphan, the head of state during the group’s reign, and Ieng Sary, the Khmer Rouge’s foreign minister, face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.  The defendants are all in their 80s.

The U.N.-backed tribunal hearing has been moving at a snail’s pace. The judges on the panel were sworn in more than five years ago and the defendants have been in custody since 2007.  Pol Pot died in 1998.

Youk Chhang, the director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, tells the BBC the survivors of the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror want an explanation of why they killed fellow Cambodians.

Chhang says the trial is important because, “People just want to confirm that the Khmer Rouge leadership was guilty of crimes against their own population.”

“That’s going to be very important for the whole country to move beyond victimhood and develop,” he adds.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Street Execution Highlights Need for Kenyan Police Reform

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NAIROBI, Kenya) -- Kenyan officials confirmed Thursday that three officers have been suspended and placed under investigation after photos surfaced showing them murdering three men who had surrendered in the middle of a busy Nairobi roadway.

The Daily Nation, a leading news outlet in Kenya, first published the photos -- which show an undercover officer pointing a gun at the victims lying on the ground -- Thursday.  A driver at the scene had captured the incident on camera Wednesday morning, according to The New York Times.

The Kenyan police have been called out before regarding "extrajudicial killings." In 2009, the United Nations expressed cause for removal of the country's police commissioner and attorney general at the time.  The Daily Nation has called for an impartial third party to investigate, saying, "This is an instance where the police cannot be entrusted with the task of investigating themselves."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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