Syria & Lebanon

UN: Syrian regime committed war crimes

yria’s Assad regime committed war crimes attacking medical facilities around the Idlib de-escalation zone, the United Nations Commission into Syria said on Monday, Anadolu Agency reported.

“In attacking medical facilities, pro-government forces repeatedly committed the war crime of deliberately attacking protected objects and intentionally attacking medical personnel,” said the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria at the launch of its newest report at a press conference.

The commission also said it has “reasonable grounds” to believe that Russian aircraft participated in bombing incidents around August last year.

“The Russian Air Force did not direct the attacks at a specific military objective, amounting to the war crime of launching indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas.”

Commissioner Hanny Megally said at the press conference: “Turkey has tried to be very careful in its own actions to avoid the types of civilian casualties as we have seen in other instances.”

Medical workers treating toddlers following a gas attack in the opposition-held town of Douma, in Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria, April. 8, 2018 (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

“The armed conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic is far from over as the types of human rights violations continue to multiply,” commission chair Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said.

The commission published its report for the period between July 11 and the end of January.

“After nearly nine years, Syrian women, children, and men continue to face unprecedented levels of suffering and pain,” said the commission chair.

With more and more civilians displaced by attacks in northwestern Syria towards the Turkish border, the UN has said it is revising upwards to plan for the needs of over a million displaced people.

“Nobody has to consult the Security Council if they can provide humanitarian assistance. They have the duty to do that,” said Pinheiro at the press conference. “We don’t have to wait for authorization to provide humanitarian assistance. It must be assured.”

As battles waged over strategic areas in southern Idlib, Hay’ at Tahrir al-Sham, the report said, “terrorists attempted to tighten their grip over the population.”

“Pro-government forces also carried out aerial and ground attacks in southern Idlib against terrorist organisations, striking civilian infrastructure, including protected objects such as medical facilities,” it said.

“Access to medical care for the wounded was thus undermined, while attacks on women’s and children’s hospitals prevented pregnant women and new mothers from receiving medical care,” said the report.

Between May 2019 and early January 2020, these attacks caused the displacement of 700,000 civilians.

The report said, “In their declared fight against terrorism, pro-Government forces carried out aerial and ground attacks in southern Idlib that killed and injured scores of civilians and decimated civilian infrastructure, including markets, camps for displaced persons and most notably hospitals.”

In its recommendations, the commission reiterated those made in its previous reports, with emphasis on the protection of civilians, including displaced populations, especially in areas in which there are ongoing hostilities.

Syrian civilians, who have been displaced due to the ongoing attacks carried out by Assad regime and Russia, are seen on their way to safer zones with their belongings, at Atme camps in Idlib, Syria on January 19, 2020 [Ibrahim Dervis / Anadolu Agency]

The Syrian regime must “allow unfettered access for independent humanitarian, protection and human rights organisations in every part of the country.”

The commission also recommended that Syrian forces cease attacks on civilians and civilian objects, “in particular against medical facilities, personnel, and transport, and comply with their obligation to take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to the civilian population.”

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic comprises of Pinheiro, Karen Koning AbuZayd, and Hanny Megally.

They were mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate and record all violations of international law since March 2011 in Syria.

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