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UN denounces war crimes in Idlib

The three members of the Commission of Inquiry reveal war crimes in Syria (photo: Human Rights Council)
The three members of the Commission of Inquiry reveal war crimes in Syria (photo: Human Rights Council)
SYRIA. In a report published on Tuesday 7 July 2020 at the request of the Human Rights Council, the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria identifies dozens of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity committed in the Idlib region. The Syrian city has been at the centre of civil war fighting for more than a year as Bashar al-Assad's government attempts to retake it through air and ground attacks.

According to Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, president of the Commission of Inquiry assisted by two other investigators, these crimes would have been recorded from November 2019 to June 2020 and would concern fifty-two assaults listed in recent months against health centres (17 raids), schools (14), markets (9) or houses (12). "Children have been bombed at school, parents at the market, patients at the hospital..., and entire families have been bombed, even while fleeing," complains Paulo Sergio Pinheiro.

He also notes that forced displacements (1 million people) due to the bombing could be qualified as crimes against humanity. He also mentions detentions, torture and executions of civilians.
"It is absolutely abhorrent that after more than nine years, civilians continue to be indiscriminately attacked and even targeted as they go about their daily business," said Paulo Sergio Pinheiro.

Violation of the laws of war

The President of the Commission believes that all the belligerents can be blamed, the pro-government forces, supported by the Russian Army, as well as the jihadists of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). "They have blatantly violated the laws of war and the rights of Syrian civilians," he insists.

The situation has been worsening since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 358 confirmed cases of coronavirus (including 13 deaths) have been reported in Syria. Member of the Commission of Inquiry, Hanny Mehally said that "now more than ever, civilians need sustained and unhindered access to humanitarian aid, which must not be politicised by Member States or instrumentalised by parties to the conflict. He added, "Pandemics know no borders, and neither does life-saving aid."

The twenty-nine page document will be presented on 14-15 July 2020 in Geneva at the 44th session of the Human Rights Council. Its authors "urge the international community to engage in a policy of accountability for the crimes described in this report".

Frédéric Dubessy

Wednesday, July 8th 2020

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