A new video purportedly from the Syrian battlefield appears to show a wild-eyed rebel chomping into the heart of a dead enemy soldier and delivering an animated warning to the army of President Bashar al-Assad.
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch identified the rebel as Abu Sakkar, a well-known rebel leader from the city of Homs.
The video, which surfaced on the Internet on Sunday but could not be authenticated, shows the man looming over a dead soldier, cutting out his heart and exclaiming: “I swear to God we will eat your hearts and your livers, you soldiers of Bashar the dog.”
Human Rights Watch identified Abu Sakkar as the leader of the Independent Omar al-Farouq Brigade.
“The desecration and mutilation of a killed person is definitely a war crime,” Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, said.
“This one is particularly disturbing because of the sectarian nature of the language used by Abu Sakkar.”
Bouckaert said Sakkar has previously been videotaped firing rockets into Shia areas of Lebanon and posing with the bodies of Hezbollah guerrillas killed fighting alongside Syrian government forces.
“Abu Sakkar is a very significant commander – he’s in charge of one of the most important battles happening in Syria right now,” said Bouckaert.
“The danger is that extremists on both sides will feel the need to respond in kind.”
The video was originally posted on Sunday, but reporters from Time magazine said they had first viewed the footage in April, adding that Abu Sakkar confirmed that he had bitten into one of the soldier’s organs.
Sakkar’s act is considered a war crime.The ICC’s Rome Statute prohibits any mutilation of dead bodies which includes “humiliating, degrading, or otherwise violating the dignity of a dead body” and requires that, “each party to the conflict must take all possible measures to prevent the dead from being despoiled.”