83 Civilians Killed in Deliberate, Repeated Attacks
SNHR has released a report entitled: “Syrian Regime Forces Targeted IDPs as They were Leaving Eastern Aleppo” which documents deliberate, repeated attacks by the Syrian-Russian alliance in the eastern parts of Aleppo that resulted in the killing of 83 civilians who were all IDPs.
The report sheds a light on the historical context in Eastern Aleppo’s neighborhoods since the start of the popular uprising in March 2011 to the point of the civilian evacuation on December 13, 2016, and the siege, bombardment, and civilians seen in the area.
The report notes that hundreds of unjustified, indiscriminate attacks by the Syrian-Russian alliance in which bunker busters, cluster munitions, incendiary weapons, chemical warfare, and barrel bombs were used have been documented between mid-November 2016, when the military escalation in Eastern Aleppo’s neighborhoods began, and the signing of the evacuation agreement. In light of these attacks, thousands of civilians and wounded were forced to flee the bombardment. While thousands of civilians headed for the Syrian regime-held western neighborhoods, approximately 50,000 remained trapped in the areas under the control of armed opposition factions.
The report emphasizes the negligence of the Syrian case on the Security Council’s and the international community’s part especially after Resolution 2832 was adopted on December 19, 2016, which states in its fourth paragraph: “Stresses the importance to ensure the voluntary, safe and dignified passage of all civilians from the eastern districts of Aleppo or other areas, under the monitoring of and coordination by the United Nations and other relevant institutions, to a destination of their choice”. Nonetheless, this wasn’t the case, as the displacement wasn’t voluntary. Therefore, this report was part of a series of Resolutions that haven’t been implemented and were merely words on papers.
The report notes that officials from the Syrian regime’s authority announced that humanitarian corridors had been secured for a safe civilian passage into Syrian regime-held areas and to facilitate civilians’ displacement. However, Syrian-Russian alliance forces carried out a number of consecutive attacks that targeted IDPs convoys.
The report highlights three attacks carried out by the Syrian-Russian alliance on November 29, 2016, November 30, 2016, and December 1 that targeted civilians fleeing Eastern Aleppo’s neighborhoods, heading for Syrian regime-held neighborhoods. These attacks resulted in the killing of no less than 83 civilians, including 29 children and 22 women.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, adds:
“These incidents assert the Syrian people’s conviction that the current ruling regime doesn’t have any reliability or credibility, which is why the regime can’t be trusted in any agreement, truce, or partnership even when its Russian allies are playing the role of a sponsor and guarantors. These reports, which are only a few of many, firmly establish that any transitional stage will be meaningless as long as the Syrian regime is a part of it.”
The report draws upon seven accounts that were collected by talking directly to eyewitnesses, and not from open sources. In addition, videos and pictures published online or sent by local activists via e-mail, Skype, or social media were analyzed. Also, some of the videos published by activists show the location of the attacks, the dead bodies, the injured, and the huge destruction in the aftermath of the bombardment.
The report stresses that the Syrian-Russian alliance has, beyond any doubt, violated Security Council Resolutions 2139 and 2254 which both state that indiscriminate attacks must be halted. Also, they violated Article 8 of Rome Statute through the act of willful killing which constitutes war crimes.
Furthermore, the repot asserts that the bombardment mentioned in this report has targeted armless civilians. Therefore, Syrian-Russian forces have violated the rules of the international human rights law which guarantee the right to life. Additionally, these violations were perpetrated in a non-international armed conflict which amount to a war crime where all elements were fulfilled.
The report also notes that these attacks, which were carried out by the Syrian-Russian alliance, constitute a violation to the customary international humanitarian law, considering that shells were fired at populated areas rather than a specific military target.
The report calls on the Security Council to apologize to the residents of Aleppo governorate for the Resolution 2328 that was a grave injustice to them and their history, and adopt a new Resolution that insure that Security Council will maintain that the forcibly-displaced people will go back to their homes. Also, the report calls on the Security Council to take further action after Resolution 2139, which lacked any commitments, was adopted to cease indiscriminate bombardment operations.
Also, the report emphasizes that the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism that was established in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 248/71 that was adopted on December 21, 2016 must be supported, local tribunals that enjoy a universal jurisdiction should be established, and the war crimes that have been committed in Syria must be prosecuted.
The report stresses that OHCHR should submit a report to the Human Rights Council and other organs of the United Nations on the incidents mentioned in this report, and the massacres that preceded them, as they are a glaring point in a string of less significant massacres.
The report calls for the implementation of the norm of the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) after all political channels through the Arab League’s plan and then Mr. Kofi Annan’s plan have been drought out. Therefore, steps under Article 7 of the Rome Stature must be taken and the norm of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP), which was established by the United Nations General Assembly, must be implemented. The Security Council is still hindering the protection of civilians in Syria.