UN Commission: Both sides guilty of war crimes in Syria

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria found a “cynical disregard for the laws of war” by both sides in Syria’s civil war during the battle over Aleppo. 

The Syrian government and its allied forces, along with rebel factions both committed war crimes during the battle over the city of Aleppo in the latter part of 2016, according to the United Nations (UN)-mandated Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

“The violence in Aleppo documented in our report should focus the international community on the continued, cynical disregard for the laws of war by the warring parties in Syria,” said Paulo Pinheiro, Chairperson of the Commission.

“The deliberate targeting of civilians has resulted in the immense loss of human life, including hundreds of children.”

The report faults the Syrian army with using military tactics that entrapped civilians in eastern parts of the city, resulting in a lack of basic necessities. Moreover, the report noted that Russian forces participated in the daily launching of air strikes, leading to hundreds of deaths and the destruction of many schools and hospitals.

The commission also found the “intentional” targeting of medical facilities to be war crimes. Moreover, there were no functioning hospitals in eastern Aleppo by the time the Syrian army took full local control.

The Syrian Air Force was also condemned for attacking a UN/Syrian Arab Red Crescent humanitarian convoy in Orum al-Kubra in Aleppo’s countryside, leading to the deaths of 14 aid workers and the destruction of countless supplies, ultimately resulting in the suspension of all humanitarian aid countrywide.

“A deliberate attack against them such as the one that took place in Orum al-Kubra amounts to war crimes and those responsible must be held accountable for their actions,” said Commissioner Carla del Ponte.

Pro-Syrian army forces also executed many injured rebel fighters, including their family members and suspected rebel faction supporters.

The Syrian army is also accused of dropping chlorine bombs in contravention of international law. Earlier this week, the UN Security Council attempted to sanction Syria for chemical weapon attacks, but the resolution was vetoed by Russia and China.

The commission found fault with “armed groups” for indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas in western parts of the city ,while using improvised weapons, adding that the primary intention of such attacks was to terrorize the population. The factions also forced civilians to become human shields by preventing them from fleeing city.

Meanwhile, the Commission found an agreement proposed in December by Russia and Turkey to evacuate civilians in eastern Aleppo caused the forced displacement of thousands of civilians.

“Some of these agreements amount to forced displacement,” said Commissioner Karen AbuZayd.  “It is imperative the parties refrain from similar future agreements and provide the conditions for the safe return of those who wish to go back to their homes in eastern Aleppo.”

By: Jonathan Benedek, World Israel News