As the situation in Syria continues to degrade, some armed groups have begun placing people in cages in order to deter indiscriminate attacks against settlements or specific sections thereof. The people in the cages are suspected to be captured fighters and local civilians taken hostage by the armed groups. Both are considered protected people, and by using them in such a way, the groups are committing war crimes.
Caging people is here considered an outrage upon personal dignity, as defined by the Geneva Conventions and the statue of the International Criminal Court. This is perhaps the least offensive aspect of this new ploy though. Using captives in this way also constitutes as both hostage taking and human shielding, which are similarly outlawed.
Hostage taking is defined as taking captives and subsequently threatening them in order to get something out of a third party, or getting them to perform a specified action. Demanding a ransom is the common example known from media, but in this case it is to prevent the Syrian government and its allies, or other militant groups, from attacking certain points.
That crime doubles in this case as human shielding, which is defined as placing protected peoples, such as civilians or captured fighters, in harms way in order to make certain areas immune to military operations. As stated by locals in favor of the practice and the groups using this tactic, the cages have been positioned specifically to prevent attacks on certain areas. According to a video posted to the Shaam News Network, an opposition outlet, there are so far 100 cages in Ghouta, with plans to make 1,000 more to distribute to different parts of that region.
When the Syrian conflict finally comes to an end, provided leadership from the armed groups responsible for these actions can be apprehended, they will no doubt face trials or war crimes on numerous counts.