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Warring parties continued to target civilians for abuses over last seven months – UN Commission

14 March 2017

  Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

GENEVA, 14 March 2017 – All parties to the Syrian conflict continued perpetrating violations and abuses which resulted in civilian casualties or otherwise impacted the civilian population, according to the latest report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.

In its report based on 326 interviews, the Commission examines in detail the conduct of all warring parties, documenting human rights abuses and war crimes committed across Syria from 21 July 2016 to 28 February 2017.

Government and pro-Government forces continued to conduct airstrikes to attack protected objects and vital civilian infrastructure including hospitals, schools and water stations. Hundreds of civilians were killed in these attacks, which were intended to deprive the population of basic goods and services essential to their survival. Without health-care or water, civilian life was meant to be made impossible. The suffering of the population was further compounded by obstruction to the delivery of humanitarian aid.

“While the world’s eyes were on Aleppo, Syrian civilians across the country, and in particular children, continued to fall victim to tactics that favoured military gains over respect for international law and human life,” said Commission Chair Paulo Pinheiro.

In one of the most vicious attacks investigated by the Commission, the Syrian Air Force deliberately targeted a school complex in Idlib which killed 21 children and injured another 61. The deliberate attack, which also killed parents and first-responders, led to the closing of the schools and deprived students, including hundreds of girls, from access to education, the report notes.

“Our investigation did not find any indication that there was a military target in the schools or their vicinity. This attack constitutes a war crime”, said Commissioner Carla del Ponte. “It is imperative that the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Armed groups continue to use locally manufactured weapons to launch attacks. These attacks, which resulted in dozens of civilians being killed and maimed, were deemed indiscriminate when launched with homemade mortars, the report notes. Internal rivalries between armed groups further led to heightened infighting between them. In one instance, members of Liwa al-Aqsa executed at least 128 hors de combat armed group fighters in Idlib, some of which had reportedly been tortured before being executed.

Terrorist groups Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) continue to carry out summary executions of civilians including of women accused of adultery and homosexual men and boys. As it retreated from Minbij in August, ISIL also used hundreds of civilians as human shields to protect its fighters from attacks.

Entire communities have been displaced by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) or Syrian Democratic (SDF) forces as they clear areas mined by ISIL. In some instances, YPG or the SDF did not provide adequate humanitarian aid to the displaced communities despite the fact that they remain prevented from returning to their homes for lengthy periods of time.

“Over six million Syrians are internally displaced, almost half of whom are children. All warring parties have an obligation to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those in need, and that civilians are able to return to their homes as soon as practicable,” said Commissioner Karen AbuZayd.


The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, which comprises Mr. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro (Chair), Ms. Carla Del Ponte, and Ms. Karen Koning AbuZayd has been mandated by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate and record all violations of international law since March 2011 in the Syrian Arab Republic.

The full report can be found on the Human Rights Council web page dedicated to the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic:


For further media information: 
(Geneva) Rolando Gómez, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Tel: +4179-4774411, email: [email protected], Cédric Sapey, OHCHR, Tel: +41-79-201 0125, email: [email protected], Elizabeth Throssell, OHCHR, [email protected] , Tel: +41 22 917 9466