The United States of America Should Intervene to Stop Russian War Crimes and Bombardment of Medical Facilities
February 19, 2020
The Syrian Network for Human Rights
In its latest report released today, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) reveals that Syrian-Russian alliance forces have targeted 67 medical facilities in northwest Syria since April 26, 2019, with SNHR calling on the United States of America to intervene to stop Russian war crimes and bombardment of medical facilities.
The 28-page report notes that Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance forces are by far the primary perpetrators in the targeting of medical facilities over Syria in the last nine years, mainly because of their use of air power, which has led to the partial or total destruction of medical centers and field hospitals, medical equipment, and stores of medicines and generators supplying these facilities, leading to the facilities’ permanent or temporary closure, as well as leading to further trauma for countless wounded or ill people.
The report outlines the historical context of recent events in the northwest region of Syria and the agreements the area has been subject to since last April 26, noting that every agreement was followed by an escalation in military operations by Syrian-Russian alliance forces, with the report stressing that the region does not receive international attention from media and human rights bodies at any level equivalent to the massive and unprecedented scale and breadth of human suffering.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairman of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, says:
“After the Security Council’s failure to protect the medical facilities in Syria from brutal Russian bombing, there is no hope for ending these ongoing war crimes except through the establishment of an international civilized humanitarian coalition led by the United States of America, European states, Canada, and Australia that aims to protect civilians and stop the bombing of medical facilities. Without such action, no amount of reports and condemnations will have any effect, and crimes against humanity and war crimes will continue to be committed against the Syrian people, constituting a shameful stain on modern history, with those states which claim to uphold the rule of law and to stand for civilized values bearing the responsibility more than others.”
The report lists the lackluster and largely absent international efforts to deter Russian forces from targeting medical facilities, stressing that the blatant and persistent shortcomings of the international community in failing to respond to these crimes have forced many medical organizations to stop work in some of their medical facilities in order to ensure the safety of medical personnel and patients, with these events taking place amid a catastrophic situation of displacement and outbreaks of illness and disease caused by massive overcrowding and freezing subzero winter temperatures which have increased the number of deaths due to cold and diseases.
The report highlights the record of attacks by Syrian-Russian alliance forces against medical facilities in northwest Syria that occurred between the beginning of the military campaign on April 26, 2019, and February 18, 2020, which includes bombings targeting medical facilities with no military installations or equipment nearby, and other attacks that targeted medical facilities whose work had already been suspended for fear of being shelled and due to the displacement of the residents of the area, noting that many facilities have been subjected to more than one attack, with each attack documented as a separate violation.
As the report states, at least 67 medical facilities were subjected to approximately 88 attacks by Syrian-Russian alliance forces between April 26, 2019, and February 18, 2020, 52 of which were carried out by Syrian Regime forces, and 36 by Russian forces.
The report reveals that, of the 67 medical facilities that have been bombed, seven of these medical facilities have been bombed 12 times, despite these facilities being listed within the humanitarian deconfliction mechanism.
In the period covered by the report, SNHR has documented Syrian regime and Russian forces’ conducting successive air strikes with short time intervals between each airstrike, ranging from minutes (a double-tap strike), to intervals of a few days’ duration. Some incidents also saw successive attacks by both Russian and Syrian regime warplanes on the same medical facility, either within minutes of each other, or within a few days of each other.
As the report states, the military escalation by Syrian-Russian alliance forces on northwest Syria has also resulted in the deaths of at least 19 medical personnel, nine of whom were killed by Syrian Regime forces, while the other 10 were killed by Russian forces.
As the report explains, the Syrian regime, which has committed grave crimes and violations against Syrian civilians for nine years to date, has also consistently failed to respond to any of the demands of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, or to those of the High Commission for Human Rights, or even to Security Council resolutions. The Security Council, which was supposed to take collective measures and action under Articles 41 and 42 of the Charter of the United Nations, also failed because of the immunity granted by Russia to the Syrian regime, with Russia routinely using its veto in the case of the Syrian regime, which not only failed to abide by the responsibility for the protection of civilians, but committed the most egregious violations against them, reaching the level of crimes against humanity, and extermination by torture within detention centers.
The report further states that the carnage that has continued to take place in Syria is represented not only by one massacre or one violation but by industrial-scale killings and torture, sexual violence, enforced disappearances, the use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs, and besieging civilians. The report quotes a report issued by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty in December 2001, which stated: “The Security Council should take into account in all its deliberations that, if it fails to discharge its responsibility to protect in conscience-shocking situations crying out for action, concerned states may not rule out other means to meet the gravity and urgency of that situation”
The report further notes that at the 2005 Summit, states unanimously agreed that each country had a responsibility to protect its population from crimes against humanity and war crimes. This responsibility entails the prevention of such crimes, the prevention of incitement to commit them by all possible means, and when the state clearly fails to protect its population from egregious crimes, or itself is committing such crimes as in the case of the Syrian regime, it is the responsibility of the international community to intervene to take protective measures in a collective, decisive and timely manner.
The report stresses that Syrian and Russian forces have violated Security Council resolutions 2139, 2254 and 2286, which call for an end to indiscriminate attacks, as well as Security Council resolution 2286, which calls for an end to violations and abuses committed in armed conflicts against medical personnel and humanitarian personnel, noting that most of the attacks targeted unarmed civilian personnel, bombardment has caused incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians or serious damage to civilian objects, adding that there are very strong indications suggesting that the damage was exceptionally excessive compared to the anticipated military benefit.
The report recommends the UN Security Council to take further action after resolutions 2139 and 2254, having failed to impose any obligation to stop indiscriminate shelling which must be adhered to by all parties to the conflict, as well as to abide by the rules of international humanitarian law.
The report also presents a set of recommendations to the International Community, to OHCHR, to the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI), and to the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM), as well as calling on the European Union and the United States of America to support the International Impartial Mechanism established by General Assembly resolution 71/248 of December 21, 2016, to open the courts of local states which have the principle of universal jurisdiction, and to prosecute war crimes committed in Syria.