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UN official: Syria airstrikes may amount to war crimes

[JURIST] UN top official Stephen O'Brien on Thursday called [official statement, PDF] for the immediate investigation of recent airstrikes in Syria which may amount to war crimes for intentionally targeting civilians. The airstrikes hit two displacement settlements [UN report] located in Syria's northern region of Idleb, taking 30 lives and injuring 80 others. O'Brien accused warring parties of not abiding by their international humanitarian obligation to protect civilian lives. He further stated that such disregard for civilian lives eliminates the possibility of allowing the Syrian people to find safe refuge. O'Brien's comments follow Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein's [official profile] statement [JURIST report] last week calling for all parties to disengage from all-out war in Syria to prevent more civilian deaths.

The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has been ongoing since 2011 when opposition groups first began protesting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and the increasingly bloody nature of the conflict has put pressure on the international community to intervene. In February the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reported [JURIST report] that the Syrian government is systematically exterminating detainees. In November Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] released a report stating that the practice of caging captured soldiers and civilians constitutes hostage-taking [JURIST report] and an outrage against their personal dignity. In October France opened a torture investigation [JURIST report] into the actions of the Syrian government under Assad in detention facilities. Additionally, Amnesty International [advocacy website] released a report [JURIST report] in October detailing the possibility of war crimes in Syria. The AI report criticized the Syrian government by stating that "they have maintained unlawful sieges, restricted humanitarian assistance deliveries, deliberately attacked civilians, and carried out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, arbitrary detentions, abductions and enforced disappearances."

A previous version of this article incorrectly cited airstrikes in Iran.
May 6, 2016 3:33 PM

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