The UN Secretary-General Doesn’t Specify in His Statement Who’s responsible for the Aerial Bombardment of Medical Centers and Schools
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) states in its report released today that the Syrian-Russian alliance forces is committing violations that constitute war crimes in and around Idlib without any action by the international community to stop it.
The 15-page report reveals that Idlib de-escalation zone has seen a constant military escalation since the Sochi Agreement entered into force, resulting in the deaths of at least 544 civilians, including 163 children and 105 women (adult female) and displacing nearly 900,000 more civilians, hundreds of thousands of whom had already been displaced more than once. In addition, there’s been a further deterioration in the already dire living conditions of nearly 4.7 million people living in an area of about 6800 square kilometers, a large number of whom are reliant on aid, in light of widespread poverty and unemployment, with a large number of international organizations ceasing to function after the radical Hay’at Tahrir al Sham group seized control of large areas of the Idlib governorate, making the situation for the displaced and local residents more difficult and complicated; meanwhile, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham itself does not care about these repercussions, and is unable to replace the missing aid, using most of its resources in the military and security sector.
The report reveals that the military campaign against the Idlib region since April 26, is the most violent since the Sochi Agreement entered into force on September 17, 2018, and is therefore the worst on a human level to date in terms of the toll of victims and the scale of the waves of displacement that resulted from it and the weapons used by the Syrian regime.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairman of SNHR, adds:
“It is true that the countries that have concluded the bilateral or tripartite agreements have the responsibility to maintain the cease-fire and not to commit violations of the agreements, but these agreements should not make us forget that there is a law of war, which is the most important, the foundation, and that many of the violations that are currently committed constitute war crimes, and that the responsibility to fight war crimes according to the four Geneva Conventions rests with all countries that have ratified them, and they must act to stop war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria. The inaction of the Security Council, which failed in Syria, does not exempt the countries of the world from protecting international law and preventing the recurrence of war crimes and crimes against humanity ”
The report focuses on events in the fourth and final de-escalation zone (consisting of Idlib governorate and parts of the governorates of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia) and outlines the record of the most notable human rights violations following the escalation of the Syrian-Russian alliance forces in the region from April 26, 2019, to May 7, 2019, noting that the toll of victims included consists solely of civilians, and is distributed according to the place they were killed in, rather than the governorate they came from.
The report notes that the most serious escalation occurred on April 30, when Syrian Regime forces used barrel bombs as a weapon for the first time since the Sochi Agreement entered into force. In the 11-day period covered, the report documents 1,068 air raids by the Syrian-Russian alliance, 496 of which were carried out by the Syrian regime air force and 572 by the Russian Air Force. The report also records at least 132 ground attacks by Syrian Regime forces in the same period, despite the relatively low number of ground attacks by these forces. The aerial and heavy artillery bombardment carried out by the Syrian-Russian alliance forces resulted in a massive wave of displacement from the northern and western suburbs of Hama. As the violence escalated and spread to the southern suburbs of Idlib, the inhabitants of this region were displaced to the northern suburbs of Idlib. According to the report, some 130,000 people have been displaced between April 26, and May 6, 2019.
The report stresses that the strategy used by the Syrian-Russian alliance of deliberate intelligence-based targeting of hospitals and shelter centers has been adopted by the Syrian regime over many years, further noting that the scale and degree of such attacks in the Syrian conflict mean that it is far ahead of other conflicts in which hospitals and medical centers are targeted in this manner, with this strategy used to spread terror and fear in the community.
The report reveals that the attacks by Syrian-Russian alliance forces between April 26, 2019 and May 7, 2019, killed at least 108 civilians, including 26 children, 24 women (adult female), with these attacks including three massacres in the fourth de-escalation zone. Of these 108 victims, all civilians, Syrian Regime forces killed 71, including 12 children and 18 women, most of them in Idlib governorate, while Russian forces killed 37 civilians, including 14 children and six women distributed between the governorates of Hama and Idlib, as well as committing three massacres, all in Hama governorate.
According to the report, the attacks by Syrian-Russian alliance forces resulted in at least 82 assaults on vital civilian facilities, including 11 on places of worship, 28 on schools, 18 on medical facilities, and nine on the Civil Defense centers; of these attacks on vital civilian facilities, the Syrian regime was responsible for 42, while Russian forces carried out 40.
The report adds that Russian forces carried out one attack using cluster munitions, while the air force of the Syrian regime forces dropped at least 188 barrel bombs during the same period, mostly on Idlib governorate.
The report condemns the absence of any reference to the identity of those responsible for the air attacks on hospitals and schools in the statement issued by the Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General on May 6, particularly since most of the attacks were carried out by the Russian and Syrian air forces using helicopters and fixed-wing warplanes only owned in Syria by the Russian and Syrian regimes. The report notes that this failure to ascribe responsibility sends the wrong message to the victims about inability to attribute responsibility, and may even encourage the perpetrator of the violation, the Syrian and Russian regimes, to continue and commit further killings and indiscriminate shelling.
The report stresses that Syrian and Russian forces have violated several rules of international humanitarian law, primarily through failure to discriminate between civilians and combatants, between civilian and military targets, bombing hospitals, schools, centers and civilian neighborhoods, with these violations amount to war crimes.
The report also emphasizes that launching a deliberate attack on medical personnel in the context of a non-international armed conflict is a war crime punishable by international humanitarian law and international criminal law (Articles 8 (2) (b), 24, 8 (2) (e) (2) of the Statute of the International Criminal Court), adding that Russian and Syrian forces have deliberately targeted medical personnel in a number of attacks.
The report further notes that displacement or forced displacement is another war crime in non-international armed conflicts when committed as part of a deliberate or widespread attack against the civilian population (Articles 8 (2) (b) (7) and 8 (2) (e) (8) of the Statute of the International Criminal Court) and may also be considered crimes against humanity (Articles 7 (1) (d) of the Statute of the International Criminal Court).
The report states that the Syrian-Russian alliance forces has violated the de-escalation zone agreement in all regions, including the Idlib region, and violated the Sochi Agreement that went into force in September 2018. In addition, Syrian Regime forces have practiced the crime of displacement in a systematic, widespread and organized manner against the civilian population.
The report calls on the Security Council to pass a resolution to stabilize the ceasefire in Idlib and to include punitive measures for all violators of the cease-fire, to genuinely support the serious implementation of the peace process in Syria and to assist in achieving a just political transition that guarantees security and stability, to refer the Syrian issue to the International Criminal Court and to ensure that all those involved in these crimes are held accountable.
The report calls on the UN Secretary General to clearly identify the perpetrators of violations, explaining that doing so will contribute to condemning their actions, exposing their practices and sending a message of solidarity to the affected community, while failing to clearly identify the perpetrators of these apparent violations encourages these and other perpetrators to commit more violations and repeat them.
The report urges the International Community to take action at both national and regional levels to form alliances to support the Syrian people in a way that can protect them from the daily killings, to lift the sieges and to increase support for relief efforts. Additionally, it urges that the principle of universal jurisdiction should be applied in local courts regarding these crimes.
The report calls for the implementation of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly, and to fulfil justice and achieve accountability in Syria through the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.
Finally, the report recommends that the OHCHR should submit a report to the Human Rights Council and other organs of the United Nations concerning the violations committed by the Syrian-Russian alliance forces.