SYRIA CONFLICT

In campaign against IS, Russia may have committed war crimes

In campaign against IS, Russia may have committed war crimes (File) Russian Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack planes perform a competition near Ryazan, Russia, in August 2015 | Reuters

An Amnesty international report says Russian air raid killed at least 200 civilians

  • Some attacks appear to have directly attacked civilians or civilian objects by striking residential areas with no evident military target and even medical facilities, resulting in deaths and injuries to civilians — Amnesty's Philip Luther

Russian air strikes have killed at least 200 civilians in Syria—many in targeted attacks that could constitute war crimes—since the beginning of the raids nearly three months ago, reports quoting an Amnesty International research said.

In the report, Amnesty said it had researched the Russian attacks in Homs, Hama, Idlib, Latakia and Aleppo.

The group said it had "interviewed by phone or over the internet 16 witnesses to attacks and their aftermath", including doctors and human rights activists.

In addition, Amnesty "obtained and reviewed audiovisual imagery" relating to the attacks and "commissioned advice from weapons experts".

“(Some attacks) appear to have directly attacked civilians or civilian objects by striking residential areas with no evident military target and even medical facilities, resulting in deaths and injuries to civilians", AFP quoted Amnesty Middle East and North Africa director Philip Luther as saying.

“Such attacks may amount to war crimes (and it) is crucial that suspected violations are independently and impartially investigated”.

The London-based rights group said there is "evidence suggesting that Russian authorities may have lied to cover up civilian damage to a mosque from one air strike and a field hospital in another".

There is also "evidence suggesting Russia's use of internationally banned cluster munitions and of unguided bombs in populated residential areas".

Amnesty noted that Russian authorities "have claimed that their armed forces are only striking 'terrorist' targets. After some attacks, they have responded to reports of civilian deaths, by denying they killed civilians; after others, they have simply stayed silent."

In one of the deadliest incidents, Amnesty said three missiles were fired at a busy market in the Idlib locality of Ariha, killing 49 civilians.

Witnesses described how the bustling Sunday market became a scene of carnage in seconds, with local media activist Mohammed Qurabi al-Ghazal quoted as saying: "In just a few moments, people were screaming, the smell of burning was in the air and there was just chaos."

In another suspected Russian attack, at least 46 civilians, including 32 children and 11 women sheltering in the basement of a residential building, were killed in October in Ghantu, Homs, Amnesty said.

Video footage showed "no evidence of a military presence", and weapons experts said the nature of the destruction "indicated possible use of fuel-air explosives, a type of weapon particularly prone to indiscriminate effects when used in the vicinity of civilians".

On Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian air strikes had killed 2,132 people since the campaign began at the end of September, including 710 civilians.

With AFP inputs

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The Week

Topics : #Russia | #Syria | #ISIS

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