A British citizen fighting in Syria is believed to have committed a war crime by taking part in the execution of a prisoner. A video that has been made public shows a rebel fighter, thought to be from London, firing a weapon repeatedly into a man who has his hands bound. A note that accompanies the video – which was uploaded to the photo and video sharing service Instagram – says the victim is “one of Bashar’s dogs”, a reference to supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It adds that the man admitted to killing four people and raping a woman.
The chilling footage is likely to reinforce the fears of UK security services that British citizens fighting in Syria pose a serious threat if they ever return, due to the likelihood that they will have been radicalised by the war.
The clip was uploaded by an account linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) –the most extremist rebel group in Syria. It is thought the incident took place within the last two weeks near the Isis stronghold of Raqqa, in northern Syria. After a fellow rebel shoots the prisoner in the head, the man believed to be the British citizen fires several shots into the prisoner’s body. The murder or ill treatment of prisoners is considered a violation of the Geneva Convention, which defines war crimes.
Researchers at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), which monitors the activity of British fighters in Syria, identified the gunman as the same person who appeared in previous videos calling on fellow British Muslims to join the fight in Syria. The man goes by the name “Abu Abdullah” and speaks with a thick London accent.
A Government spokesman said: “This demonstrates why we have consistently called for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court. Whether this barbaric act is specifically a war crime is for a court to decide. Horrific atrocities have been committed by both the Assad regime and by extremists. The international community must ensure that all those responsible are held to account.”