U.N.: Russia may have committed war crimes in Syria market attack

Russian warplanes attacked two schools in Syria using cluster munitions, weapons so dangerous that they have been banned by 118 countries Photo: SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP/Getty,
Russian warplanes attacked two schools in Syria using cluster munitions, weapons so dangerous that they have been banned by 118 countries Photo: SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP/Getty,

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria said Tuesday a Russian Air Force attack on a civilian area in Aleppo last year may amount to a war crime.

The report, which chronicled violations between July 2017 and January 2018, called for accountability from military campaigns that “toppled” the Islamic State in Ar-Raqqah and Dayr al-Zawr.

The inquiry drew from over 500 interviews and covered crimes and violations perpetrated by all parties to the conflict, including attacks on civilians and the use of chemical weapons.

The U.N. said a particularly harmful Russian attack on Nov. 13 that killed 84 and injured another 150 could lead to war crimes charges.

Although military offensives were successful, the report said, the battles came at a high cost to civilians, with the international coalition led by the United States among those failing “to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians and civilian objects.”

The report cited an airstrike conducted by the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State in al-Mansoura that killed 150 internally displaced persons.

Human Rights Watch said in September that the U.S.-led coalition “failed to take necessary precautions to avoid and minimize civilian casualties, a requirement under international humanitarian law.”

“It is beyond comprehension that, despite this extensive range of violations, Syrian victims and survivors continue to be denied any meaningful justice,” U.N. Inquiry Commission Chairman Paulo Pinheiro said Tuesday. “Remedies which go beyond calls for criminal justice and address, for example, the situation of tens of thousands of detainees or account for those who have been disappeared or abducted must be given greater attention.”

The report said the aerial and ground offensives to defeat the Islamic State led to “one of the single largest waves of internally displaced persons since the inception of the conflict.”

“The blanket internment of all IDPs from Raqqah and Dayr al-Zawr cannot be justified” by the Syrian Defense Forces, Commissioner Karen AbuZayd said. “These IDP camps lack adequate resources and are only compounding their suffering. Those civilians who wish to leave must be immediately released.”

Combating terrorism, the U.N. added, is no justification for “punishing a whole population.”

The U.N. recommended for the immediate release of women, children, the elderly and disabled.

In February, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a 30-day cease-fire in Syria after intense bombing killed over 500 civilians.

On Tuesday, Russia called on the United States to abide by commitments under the U.N. cease-fire, accusing it of hindering access to controlled areas for representatives of international humanitarian organizations
UPI