A White Helmets rescuer holds a child killed by Russia-regime bombing of Ma’arat al-Nu’man, Idlib Province, northwest Syria, August 28, 2019
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria has issued a further report detailing evidence of war crimes by the Assad regime.
The investigators also condemned abuses by the hardline Islamist bloc HTS in opposition-held northwest Syria.
In its 29-page report The Commission added to the documentation of targeting of hospitals, schools, and homes by the Assad regime, Russia, and pro-Assad forces, who have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians and displaced millions since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011.
Tbe investigators, who report to the UN Human Rights Council, assessed that the regime and Russia “carried out air and ground attacks which decimated civilian infrastructure, depopulated towns and villages”.
The report details 52 attacks from November 2019 to June 2020, including 17 on hospitals and medical facilities, 14 on schools, 12 on homes, and nine on markets. The attacks killed 582 civilians — 534 by pro-Assad forces and 48 by other armed groups
The investigators noted that “civilians had no choice but to flee” in a mass displacement which “may amount to the crimes against humanity of forcible transfer, murder, and other inhumane acts”.
Commission chair Paulo Pinheiro said:
It is completely abhorrent that, after more than nine years, civilians continue to be indiscriminately attacked, or even targeted, while going about their daily lives.
Children were shelled at school, parents were shelled at the market, patients were shelled at the hospital…entire families were bombarded even while fleeing. What is clear from the military campaign is that pro-government forces and UN-designated terrorists flagrantly violated the laws of war and the rights of Syrian civilians.
The investigators found that after civilians fled pro-Assad attacks, HTS fighters looted their homes, and “as battles waged, they detained, tortured, and executed civilians expressing dissenting opinions, including journalists”.
The report will be presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland on July 14.
Threats from Attacks and Aid Cutoff
A Russian-regime offensive from April 2019 to March 2020 seized almost all of northern Hama Province and parts of southern and eastern Idlib Province. It killed about 2,000 civilians, wounded thousands, and displaced more than 1 million. More than 70 medicial facilities and scores of schools, markets, and other civilian infrastructure were bombed.
On Tuesday, Russia used its Security Council veto to prevent an extension of aid to civilians through Turkish crossing points in northwest Syria, and the reopening of an Iraqi crossing point into the Kurdish-held northeast.
Commission member Hanny Megally appealed:
Now more than ever, civilians need sustained and unfettered access to humanitarian assistance which must neither be politicized by Member States nor instrumentalized by parties to the conflict. Pandemics know no borders, neither should life-saving aid.