- The UN report is of the period from November 1, 2019 to April 30, 2020, and documents 52 attacks.
- The Syrian government, with support from Russia, relaunched its offensive against Idlib in December.
- The Commission is equally unhappy with the atrocities committed by the region’s main extremist group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).
A UN report released today states that numerous war crimes, as well as crimes against humanity, were committed in the province of Idlib, northwest Syria. The crimes were said to have taken place during an offensive by the Bashar al-Assad government in the period between late 2019 and early 2020.
“Children were shelled at school, parents were shelled at the market, patients were shelled at the hospital and entire families were bombarded even while fleeing.” said Paulo Pinheiro, President of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria.
The UN report is of the period from November 1, 2019 to April 30, 2020, and documents 52 attacks. It bases it’s findings on almost 300 interviews as well as photographic and video material.
The Syrian government, with support from Russia, relaunched its offensive against Idlib in December. It is the last stronghold in the hands of rebel and jihadist groups. A precarious truce, sponsored by Russia and Turkey, went in to force in March. The offensive led to the death of more than 500 civilians and the displacement of roughly one million people, as per the UN.
“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,” Pinheiro adds in the report.
According to the Pinheiro-led commission, between November 1 and April 30, 25 medical facilities, 58 schools and 14 markets were bombed. In the overwhelming majority of cases, pro-government forces and their Russian allies committed the bombings. At least 676 civilians died.
Some of these “indiscriminate bombings,” mainly in Maaret al-Noomane, in the province of Idlib, and in Atarib (west of Aleppo), in December and February, “may constitute a crime against humanity,” according to the report.
The Commission is equally unhappy with the atrocities committed by the region’s main extremist group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is accused of “looting, detention, torture, and executions of civilians, including journalists.”
The Commissioners also stated that the UN-designated terrorist group, HTS, bombed densely populated civilian areas, “spreading terror” in Government-held areas. “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”, said Pinheiro.
“Women, men and children that we interviewed faced the ghastly choice of being bombarded or fleeing deeper into HTS-controlled areas where there are rampant abuses of human rights and extremely limited humanitarian assistance”, said Commissioner Karen Koning Abu Zayd. “The acts by HTS members amount to war crimes,” she concluded.
In his appeal for the nearly one million very vulnerable displaced civilians owing to the conflict, Commissioner Hanny Megally implored all parties to stop the attacks with an immediate effect.
“Now more than ever, civilians need sustained and unfettered access to humanitarian assistance which must neither be politicized by the Member States nor instrumentalized by parties to the conflict. Pandemics know no borders, neither should life-saving aid,” Mr. Megally said in reference to the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to the conflict.
He also urged the member states to pursue accountability for crimes outlined in the report.