Screen capture from the execution video.
In this extremely violent footage, rebels from the Free Syrian Army are filmed shooting to death a group of men accused of being part of President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle. Two opposition activists in Aleppo – including one that witnessed the executions – share their reactions.
The video was uploaded to the Internet on Tuesday, only several hours after being filmed. It shows the execution of four members of the Berri clan, known for being close to the regime, and their leader, Zeinou Berri. In the video, uniformed men bring the prisoners in front of a group of combatants. Some of the prisoners are shirtless, and their bodies are bloodied and bear the marks of beatings. While onlookers heckle the prisoners and cheer on the Free Syrian Army fighters, the prisoners are forced to sit along a wall. Several moments later, the rebels open fire with their machine guns and the prisoners are killed in a shower of bullets.
According to Rami Abdurrahmane from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition watchdog group, these events did take place on Tuesday in Aleppo. Abdurrahmane confirms that he received the video from soldiers who participated in the execution. According to him, these executions occurred between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.: “Zeinou Berri and other members of his family, or close colleagues, were arrested by the Free Syrian Army. They subsequently were summarily tried, then handed over to members of the Unification Brigade (this brigade, which is part of the Free Syrian Army, is the largest in Aleppo; it is composed of most of the militias in the city and its suburbs) who executed them.”
The Berris are a rich Syrian family known for their close ties with the Assad clan. Two members of this family currently serve in parliament. Since the start of the rebellion, they have allegedly “participated” in the repression of demonstrations, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. On May 31, Free Syrian Army combatants in Aleppo had already killed six members of the Berri family.
“The opposition has its own justice, its own tribunals”
Houssam (not his real name) is an opposition activist in Aleppo.
Those who were executed in this video are not simple civilians, but rather pillars of the regime. The Berri clan is known for recruiting “chabbihas” (militiamen working for the regime) to attack opposition activists.The opposition has its own justice, its own tribunals. Those very close to the regime, like Berri, and who have blood on their hands, have long been on the list of those condemned to die. The Free Syrian Army does not kill innocent people.We do not believe in any international justice. Even if Bashar al-Assad had fallen from power, no tribunal would dare convict him. We do not want to wait years, like other countries have, for prosecutions that will not avenge our dead.
“Even the Free Syrian Army officers who were present and who did not approve of this did not have time to react”
Majed is a member of the Sham News Network, a network of activists that films and uploads videos on the Syrian conflict. Based in Aleppo, he was present at the scene of the execution.
It all happened very quickly, to the point that even the officers who were present and who did not approve of this did not have time to react. The Free Syrian Army soldiers who carried out the execution were almost in an alternate state. They had just lost 17 of their comrades in fights with this very clan, comrades whose corpses were still lying on the field of combat. They held the Berris, and notably Zeinou Berri, responsible for these deaths, because his clan had joined the regular army to fight against the Free Syrian Army.The execution was horrific. It is of course shocking that it happened in such a summary manner. But I understand the reaction of the Free Syrian Army soldiers. The losses they had suffered blinded them. I don't know if this kind of excess will happen again, and I hope not, but we are in wartime and it is not always easy for combatants to react in a reasonable manner.