In a 38-page report, "'They Burned My Heart': War Crimes in Northern Idlib during Peace Plan Negotiations," the group accuses the government of war crimes. In addition to killing civilians, the report says government troops burned hundreds of houses, detained people and tortured them, and carried out summary executions.
The actions occurred in late March and early April in Idlib governate while former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was brokering a cease-fire between the government and rebels, Human Rights Watch said.
Anna Neistat, associate director for program and emergencies at Human Rights Watch, said investigators visited several towns in Idlib in late April.
"Everywhere we went, we saw burnt and destroyed houses, shops, and cars, and heard from people whose relatives were killed. It was as if the Syrian government forces used every minute before the cease-fire to cause harm," she said.
The report quotes survivors who lost sons, brothers and other relatives. One man describes finding the bodies of 14 relatives, including nine who appeared to have been lined up and shot.
Neistat called on the United Nations to investigate the Syrian government's actions during the period just before the cease-fire.