NEW YORK CITY: Anticipating a Western-led military strike on Syria's regime, Human Rights Watch warned Wednesday that any such intervention must include every possible effort to protect the civil war torn nation's civilians.
The U.S.-based rights group stressed it was not taking up a position on possible military action, which Washington and other Western powers have hinted was due after alleged poison gas attacks last week near Damascus.
But "if there is a military intervention, all warring parties must strictly adhere to the laws of war," which forbid deliberate attacks against civilians and the use of weapons such as cluster munitions or antipersonnel landmines, the group said.
"Military action carried out in the name of upholding a basic humanitarian norm -- you don't gas children in their sleep -- will be judged by its effect in protecting all Syrian civilians from further unlawful attacks, whether chemical or conventional," HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said in a statement.
The group said all parties involved, including President Bashar al-Assad's forces and the rebels fighting to oust them, should adhere to laws of war.
Any forces involved in military action against Syria should also consider "the additional humanitarian needs" created by such attacks, noted the group, which also urged provision of aid even if Damascus objected.
"Given the inadequacy of relief aid provided solely with the permission of the Syrian government, efforts to provide cross-border assistance should be scaled-up dramatically, regardless of Syria's consent," HRW said.
The group also took specific issue with Russia and China, saying their intransigence on Syria has led to U.N. gridlock.
"For more than two years, the United Nations Security Council has been paralyzed on Syria and unable to help curtail atrocities because of the repeated vetoes of Russia and China," HRW said.
It said the Security Council should refer the Syria crisis to the International Criminal Court "so that those implicated in serious violations of international law can be appropriately prosecuted."