85 Syrian army men defect to Turkey

July 3rd, 2012 - 3:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Ankara, July 3 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Eighty-five Syrian soldiers, including an artillery general and 14 lower-ranked officers, have defected and fled to Turkey.

The men were placed in the Apaydin refugee camp in southern Turkey’s Hatay province, in one of the largest mass military defections since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011, Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber said.

About 2,000 Syrian defectors are already stationed there.

Last month, a Syrian general, two colonels, two majors, one lieutenant and 33 soldiers abandoned allegiance to Assad and fled to Turkey.

Relations between Syria and Turkey, once close allies, have soured since the Syrian conflict began.

Turkey has announced it has deployed anti-aircraft artillery along its border with Syria in response to the downing of one of its warplanes by Syrian forces June 22.

Meanwhile, US-based rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the Damascus government of subjecting thousands of people to arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and torture, in a new report released Tuesday.

The report titled “Torture Archipelago” is based on the testimony of more than 200 former detainees, including women and children, and defectors from the Syrian military and intelligence agencies.

The HRW said the regime’s actions, carried out by state police, amounted to a crime against humanity, and called on the UN Security Council to refer the issue to the International Criminal Court.

“The reach and inhumanity of this network of torture centres are truly horrific. Russia should not be holding its protective hand over the people who are responsible for this,” HRW emergencies researcher Ole Solvang said in a press release.

Russia - along with China - has previously vetoed UN resolutions against Syria over what it says is a pro-rebel bias.

–IANS/RIA Novosti

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