News / Middle East

Rights Group Says Syrian Attacks Violate International Law

A Syrian Air force fighter-bomber strikes the town of Ras al-Ain near the Turkish frontier November 13, 2013.
A Syrian Air force fighter-bomber strikes the town of Ras al-Ain near the Turkish frontier November 13, 2013.
The Syrian Air Force is carrying out air strikes on its own cities and towns that violate international humanitarian law or amount to war crimes, according to a leading human rights organization.

The organization Human Rights Watch, said its conclusion is based on about 60 Syrian Air Force attacks inside the country that were either too indiscriminate, killing or endangering nearby civilians, or were deliberately targeted at non-combatants.

In a 75-page report, “Death from the Skies: Deliberate and Indiscriminate Air Strikes on Civilians,” Human Rights Watch said it documented the bombing raids in rebel-controlled areas in the Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Idlib, and Latakia. The report, issued today (April 10), was based on visits to bombing sites and field investigations, including more than a hundred interviews. Researchers also examined video footage of the air raids. (Listen to our interview with HRW's Nadim Houri using the audio player at the end of this post.)

The limited number of raids investigated by rights group led to the deaths of at least 152 civilians, it said. Overall, more than 4,000 civilians may have been killed in air raids since last summer, according to the Syrian Violations Documentation Center, a Syrian monitoring group working in coordination with a network of Syrian opposition activists.

The United Nations estimates that more than 70,000 overall have been killed in Syria since the civil war began just over two years ago.  More than a million are estimated to have been left homeless.
 
Deliberate attacks on bakeries and hospitals
 
Human Rights Watch said the air strikes it studied are carried out by warplanes and helicopters and include deliberate attacks on bakeries and hospitals. It said that in some cases the Syrian aircraft dropped cluster and incendiary bombs, which was described as a method of “systematic and widespread attacks against the civilian population.”

In March, VOA found some evidence that cluster bombs, which break open in the air and spread so-called bomblets, may have been used in an attack on the town of Azaz near the border with the Turkey. Cluster munitions have been banned by most nations because of their indiscriminate nature, although the U.S. military has claimed in the past that cluster munitions can often result in less collateral damage than a larger bomb or artillery shell.
 
A Syrian man cries outside the Dar El Shifa hospital in Aleppo, Syria after his daughter was injured during a Syrian Air Force strike over a school where hundreds of refugees had taken shelter Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012.A Syrian man cries outside the Dar El Shifa hospital in Aleppo, Syria after his daughter was injured during a Syrian Air Force strike over a school where hundreds of refugees had taken shelter Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012.
x
A Syrian man cries outside the Dar El Shifa hospital in Aleppo, Syria after his daughter was injured during a Syrian Air Force strike over a school where hundreds of refugees had taken shelter Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012.
A Syrian man cries outside the Dar El Shifa hospital in Aleppo, Syria after his daughter was injured during a Syrian Air Force strike over a school where hundreds of refugees had taken shelter Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012.
“In village after village, we found a civilian population terrified by their country’s own air force,” said Ole Solvang, an emergencies researcher with Human Rights Watch who interviewed many of the victims and witnesses. “These illegal air strikes killed and injured many civilians and sowed a path of destruction, fear, and displacement.”

Between July and December, Human Rights Watch report documented 119 incidents of the Syrian armed forces dropping cluster munitions in populated areas in the governorates of Aleppo, Idlib, Deir al-Zor, Homs, Latakia and Damascus.

Four bakeries were among the targets of the 59 air strikes in the report.  Civilians were often queuing in breadlines at the time of the attacks.

The raids also included repeated attacks on two hospitals. In Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, warplanes attacked the clearly marked Dar al-Shifa hospital, forcing the clinic to cease functioning.

In the town of Salma in the governorate of Latakia, high-flying helicopters dropped improvised bombs near a makeshift hospital, eventually destroying it on October 5, 2012, Human Rights Watch said.
 
Rebels escape many air strikes
 
The rights group report noted that the air strikes it documented led to no casualties among rebel fighters, as far as its researchers could establish.

Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain after an air strike November 13, 2012.Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain after an air strike November 13, 2012.
x
Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain after an air strike November 13, 2012.
Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain after an air strike November 13, 2012.
In 41 of the attacks documented in the report, Human Rights Watch identified possible military targets, such as rebel bases or checkpoints within 50 to 400 meters of the strike. But it said that international law experts conclude that an attacking party is not relieved from a legal obligation to take into account risk to civilians.

In al-Bab, a town northeast of Aleppo, the Syrian Air Force launched several sorties near a rebel base on September 3, 2012, but the base was never hit - a house was, killing four members of the Said family.

On November 7, a Syrian air force warplane dropped two bombs on the town of Akhtarin in northern Aleppo governorate, destroying three houses and killing seven, including five children. In this case there was a possible military target, a building 50 meters away used by opposition fighters, the Human Rights Watch report said.

“It was tragic. The buildings had turned into a heap of rubble,” said a neighbor quoted in the report. “We started pulling people out using just our hands and shovels. A cupboard and a wall had fallen on the children. They were still alive when we found them, but they died before we could take them to their uncle’s house.”

Human Rights Watch has issued several hard-hitting reports on the Syrian civil war and not all of its criticism has focused on the government. Last autumn, the group criticized the rebel Free Syrian Army for failing to take “all feasible measures to avoid deploying forces and structures such as headquarters in or near densely populated areas.”
 
The latest report concludes by saying that, “The information we have gathered should also assist those seeking to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice,” a possible invitation for the United Nations or the International Criminal Court to consider war crimes charges against senior members of the regime of President al-Assad.

VOA's Susan Yackee speaks to Human Rights Watch's Nadim Houri about the group's latest findings in Syria:

You May Like

Official: S. Sudan President, Rebel Leader to Meet in Tanzania

Talks part of effort to end conflict in country that has left more than 10,000 people dead, displaced more than 1.5 million others More

Dutch Deny Link to Mystery Submarine Off Sweden

Netherlands denies Russian claim that 'foreign vessel' photographed in waters off Sweden could be Dutch More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Stuart Deakin from: Glasgow
April 11, 2013 2:51 PM
This is purely propaganda; the human rights breaches are coming from the Salafist terrorist groups inside Syria that our Governments are supporting. Syria was the only country on Earth where Jews, Christians and Muslims lived in harmony. Unfortunately due to terrorist entity which is the US administration and its allies were Syria has been thrown into the Abyss purely as a stepping stone for isolating and invading Iran and placing pressure on Russia and China. This is an economic game, this is a geo-political game, nothing more, nothing less.


by: Gen. Vladimir Azkayev from: Russia
April 11, 2013 2:50 PM
Dr. Hans, i always enjoy reading your reports, which are always accurate and extremely penetrating. I have few questions:
1. why the UK and France did not share their intelligence with the EU INTCEN?
2. we are seeing "new" weapons in the hands of Syrian "Rebels" who pays for their transport and distribution? Saudi Arabia? UK? France?
3. we have been witnessing significant Turkish disciplinary deterioration on the Turkish-Syrian border - including systematic sexual abuse by Turkish soldiers raping Syrian refugees... why was it not addressed in the EU INTCEN?
4. yes, we all admire Israeli intelligence, but why Russian intelligence is so unreliable?
5. what is the motivation behind British agitation to remove Assad by force?


by: Cian
April 11, 2013 2:32 PM
An US Human Rights organization is complaining about another country? Shuuureeely shooome mishtaake?


by: Dr. Hans F. from: Gernamy
April 11, 2013 12:15 PM
in the latest conference of European Intelligence Agencies a consensus emerged as the point to keep in mind: very close alliance on the issue of Syrian intervention between Russia and Germany (Dr. Subramanian I respect your opinion and largely agree with your assessment that this is historically not the best thing for the world). However, the Americans have completely abandoned their leadership position, leaving Putin to dominate the agenda...

Almost all of our "Actionable" intelligence come from reputable Israeli sources, and some from less reliable Russian sources.
German Intelligence is confined to interrogations of Syrian refugees seeking asylum in Germany with even less reliability. The British continue to agitate for the removal of Assad by force, the American representatives are silent and the Israelis fill the pressure most acutely but they are bound by American decisions. Contrary to reports in the media - no action concerning arming the "Rebel" was undertaken. next week, we are scheduled to consider the regional impact on Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, all of whom are beginning to show signs of acute instability.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid