Security forces hold evacuees from Homs

By Patrick Cockburn

International concern mounts as hundreds of men and boys are interrorgated, says UN.

Syrian Arab Red Crescent members (in red uniforms) help evacuate an injured man from the battleground city of Homs to a rescue bus. Photo / AP
Syrian Arab Red Crescent members (in red uniforms) help evacuate an injured man from the battleground city of Homs to a rescue bus. Photo / AP

The fate of dozens of men detained by the Syrian security forces as they left the besieged city of Homs is continuing to cause international concern.

About 190 are being held in a school while 111 have been questioned and released according to Talal Barazi, the Governor of Homs.

The UN gives a higher figure of 336 men and boys detained and 41 released while others are being questioned under the general monitoring of UN staff. Robert Colville, the UN human rights office spokesman, said it was essential they did not come to any harm.

It was always unclear what would happen to men under 55 but over 15, under the UN-brokered agreement whereby civilians are leaving and aid is going in.

In theory Syrian fighters who give up their weapons would be pardoned and released but it is not clear that this is happening. The treatment of non-Syrian fighters in Homs was similarly not spelled out nor a clear distinction made between men who had been fighting and those who had not.

The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, called it outrageous that evacuees were being detained.

The Syrian Government said screening had to take place to weed out "terrorists", a term used by the Government to describe all its opponents. It is in the Government's interest to see an end to the siege of Homs but its day-to-day control of different sections of the Mukhabarat (secret police) has always been shaky.

Units of the National Defence Force (NDF) pro-government militia, often drawn from the Alawite sect, appear to be opposed to the present agreement in Homs and may be responsible for shooting at UN aid vehicles over the weekend.

The Government is not going to give up its siege and does not want fighters who have not surrendered to benefit from aid supplies. Rebels will not want to lay down their arms if they expect to be imprisoned, tortured or shot.Independent

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