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UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria Condemns Unlawful Attacks in the Syrian Arab Republic

Independent International Commission of Inquiry
on the Syrian Arab Republic

Geneva, 11 May 2016 – The United Nations mandated Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic condemns in the strongest terms recent attacks on civilians and civilians infrastructure, notably on hospitals and clinics in Aleppo city, and on an internally displaced persons’ camp in Idlib. Aerial bombardments, ground shelling, and rocket fire have consistently been used in deliberate, indiscriminate, and disproportionate attacks on areas where Syrians civilians live and where they struggle to survive.

Since the attacks against Al-Quds hospital in Aleppo governorate on 27 April, there have been over a half dozen attacks against other medical facilities in the area; all of which are specifically protected sites under international humanitarian law. Scores of civilian victims and medical personnel have been wounded or killed in these attacks. In recent weeks, markets, bakeries, and a water station have also been aerially bombarded. With the only one supply route still open to opposition-controlled areas of Aleppo city, the destruction of food, water and medical supplies raises grave concerns for the civilians within.

The 5th of May attack on the Kamounah IDP camp in Sarmada, Idlib reportedly killed and injured dozens of civilians.

“These incidents demonstrate the undeniable fact that this conflict has repeatedly exacted its heaviest toll on civilians,” said Paulo Pinheiro, Chair of the Commission.  “This flagrant disregard for international humanitarian law is not new, but rather is the continuation of an well-established trend of unlawfully attacking medical sites and personnel, places of refuge, and infrastructure necessary for civilian life,“ Pinheiro added. 

At a time in which the cessation of hostilities agreement has increasingly deteriorated, it is paramount that all parties to the conflict and those states seeking a peaceful resolution, demand civilian protection measures be taken. The Commission calls on all parties to cease the unlawful attacks on civilian areas, especially humanitarian locations and specially protected sites under international humanitarian law.

The Commission has repeatedly noted that international humanitarian law’s foundational principle of distinction – which underlies a number of war crimes – requires all parties to a conflict to distinguish between lawful and unlawful targets. The recent unlawful attacks are violations of international humanitarian law; some are war crimes. “Failure to respect the laws of war must have consequences for the perpetrators,” the Chair stressed. “Accountability must be part of the process of returning Syria to peace. Until the culture of impunity is uprooted, civilians will continue to be targeted, victimized and brutally killed.”

The Commission strongly supports all efforts to find a political solution to the conflict, including a return to a full cessation of hostilities. It remains committed to fulfilling its mandate to investigate and document all violations occurring in the context of the Syrian armed conflict, regardless of who commits them.

Background

The Commission of Inquiry on Syria was established by the Human Rights Council in August 2011 to investigate and record all violations of international human rights law and allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Commission is also tasked to identify, where possible, those responsible for these violations with a view to ensuring that perpetrators are held accountable.

The Commission comprises of Mr. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro (Chair), Ms. Karen Koning AbuZayd, Ms. Carla del Ponte, and Mr. Vitit Muntarbhorn.

The Commission of Inquiry on Syria will present an oral update to the Human Rights Council in Geneva during an interactive dialogue at its 32nd session in June.

Additional information about the Commission of Inquiry and links to all available reports can be found on their website:

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/IICISyria/Pages/IndependentInternationalCommission.aspx

Media contact: (Geneva) Rolando Gómez, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Tel: +41-22-917.9711, email: rgomez@ohchr.org