Russian Forces Kill 52 Civilians, including 10 Children, in a Horrifying Massacre in Zardana village, Northeastern Suburbs of Idlib
BY: KEYSTONE / AP Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets
Since the de-escalation agreement came into effect, SNHR has ensured to closely monitor the human rights aspect, as well as rates of violations by the signing parties as nine reports have been released so far by SNHR in this regard. The reality on the ground, as well as the monitoring, have demonstrated that the Syrian-Russian alliance forces have been the main and primary perpetrator of violations. An alarming escalation of hostilities kicked off in Idlib governorate in September 2017, as the report monitors, and expanded to other areas that were included in the agreement until it came to completely fall apart in Eastern Ghouta, northern suburbs of Homs, and, since mid-June, this was also the case in south Syria.
The report, which was released by SNHR, notes that Russian forces have incorporated the double-strike tactic, which has been used previously by the Syrian regime, where the same site is targeted a few minutes after the initial attack in order to kill as many casualties as possible among civil defense members, medical teams, and doctors.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNRH, says:
“The pattern of bombing civilians for a second time in the same area where they were targeted in the first bombing demonstrates a flagrant disregard for any form of potential accountability or prosecution as a criminal would try to conceal their crime by escaping after bombing. However, the Syrian catastrophe has seen a deterioration with regard to legal and humanitarian ideals that is still yet to be seen in the modern age. Condemning and exposing this barbarian pattern of offensives is a joint responsibly that all nations and human right defenders around the world should uphold.”
The report sheds light on a massacre perpetrated by Russian forces in Zardana village, northeastern suburbs of governorate, as the report stresses that 6,187 civilians, including 1,771 children, have been killed at the hands of Russian forces since their intervention started in Syria.
The report draws upon accounts from injured and survivors, as well as paramedics and central signal operators, as the report contains four accounts, in addition to analyzing the videos and pictures that were posted online or sent by local activists via e-mail, Skype, or social media. These pictures show the sites of the attacks, as well as the wide destruction in the aftermath of the attack and a number of individuals who were injured as a result of the attack.
According to the report, the targeted area was a civilian area that is devoid of any military bases or armories for factions from the armed opposition or extremist Islamic groups during or even before the attack. Also, Russian forces never alerted civilians prior to the attack as required by the international humanitarian law.
The report notes that two fixed-wing believed to be part of the Russian air force carried out two airstrikes within 45 minutes on southwestern Zardana village on Thursday, June 7, 2018. The two attacks, the first of which took place on 21:00, resulted in the killing of 52 civilians, including 10 children and 10 women (adult female) while no less than 80 civilians were injured including paramedics and civil defense member. Additionally, the attacks resulted in wide destruction that involved about seven residential buildings.
The report stresses that the Russian regime has, beyond any doubt, violated Security Council Resolutions 2139 and 2254 which both state that indiscriminate attacks must be ceased. Also, the Russian regime has violated, through the crime of willful killing, Articles 7 and 8 of Rome Statue, which constitutes war crimes and crimes against humanity as the bombardment, the report notes, targeted defenseless civilians. Therefore, Russian forces have violated the rules of the international human rights law which guarantee the right to life.
The report says that the bombardments, which were carried out by the Russian air force, constitute a violation to the customary international humanitarian law and have resulted in collateral damages that involved casualties, injuries, or significant damages to civilian objects. There are strong indicators that compel to believe that the damage was too excessive compared to the anticipated military advantage.
According to the report, the attacks carried out by Russian forces constitute a violation to the de-escalation agreement through bombing areas held by factions from the armed opposition. This strips the path and agreements of Geneva of any meaning and strengthens al Nussra Front at the expense of those factions.
The report calls on the Security Council to take additional steps after Resolution 2139 was adopted, and no pledges to cease the indiscriminate bombardments have been made. The report also stresses that the Syrian case should be referred to the International Criminal Court and all those who were implicated should be held accountable, and sanctions should be expanded nclude the pillars of the Syrian and Iranian regimes who have been directly involved in crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Syrian people.
The report also calls for supporting the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) that was established in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 71/248, adopted on December 21, 2016. And establish local tribunals that enjoy a universal jurisdiction, and address the war crimes that were perpetrated in Syria.
In addition, the report calls on the OHCHR to submit a report to the Human Rights Council and other UN Organs on this massacre in particular and the ones preceding it seeing that they are glaring marks in a string of daily, sporadic massacres of less scale.
The report calls for implementing the ‘Responsibility to Protect (R2P)’ norm especially after all political initiatives, through the Arab League agreement and then Mr. Kofi Annan’s plan and the Cessation of Hostilities and Astana agreements that followed, have been to no avail. Therefore, after all of this, action should be taken under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations and the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ norm, which was established by the UN General Assembly, should be implemented. The Security Council is still hindering the protection of civilians in Syria.
The report stresses that the UN special envoy to Syria should condemn the perpetrators of crimes and massacres who were primarily responsible for dooming de-escalation agreements, effectively shattering and ending the entire political process and hold the Syrian-Russian alliance fully responsible for this. And disclose to the Syrian people Russia’s intentions to completely take control of the Syrian lands by force and its explicit desire to rehabilitate the present Syrian regime, which means formulating a political solution that suits its interests.
Lastly, the report calls on the Russian regime to immediately compensate the families of the victims who were killed by Russian forces, and pledge to reconstruct all of the facilities and buildings that were destroyed by its instruments of war, and shoulder the complete economic and moral expenses instead of asking some European states to do so. The report also calls on the Russian regime to respect the rules of the international humanitarian law and launch wide, impartial investigations into the gross violations Russian forces perpetrated in Syria.