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US concludes Syria airstrikes not in violation of international law

[JURIST] US Central Command [official website] concluded [press release] on Wednesday that airstrikes carried out by the US-led coalition near Dayr az Zawr, Syria, in September did not violate international law. According to Russian sources [JURIST report], the strike killed 60 soldiers loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [CNN profile]. The soldiers were misidentified as Islamic State (IS) fighters by the Combined Air Operations Center . The investigation concluded that the targets of the attack underwent the proper assessment, review and validation process. However, several factors impeded proper identification. According to the investigation, at the time of the strike the Syrian troops were not wearing recognizable military uniforms, identifying flags or unit markers. The investigation also identified several human errors such as confirmation bias, improper labeling and invalid assumptions arising from an initial inaccurate identification of the troops as IS fighters. Coalition forces ceased their attacks on the Syrian troops immediately following reports through a US-Russia safety de-confliction hotline that the soldiers had been misidentified.

The conflict in Syria [JURIST backgrounder] has continued for five years in a civil war surrounding the legitimacy of Assad. On Monday a group of German lawyers announced [JURIST report] the filing of charges against Assad that allege he committed war crimes in the city of Aleppo. In October the UN called [JURSIT report] the bombing of Aleppo a crime "of historic proportions." In September a UN commission on Syria urged [JURIST report] parties in the Syrian conflict to return to the "negotiation table" after a new report highlighted an increase of violence suffered by civilians. In August a top UN official submitted a report detailing an in-depth investigation into chemical warfare [JURIST report] used by the Islamic State and Assad in Syria. That same month Amnesty International said that a suspected chlorine gas attack in Aleppo could amount to a war crime [JURIST report]. In July Human Rights Watch reported [JURIST report] cluster bombs have been targeted at civilians and rebels in Northern Syria. In June UN human rights experts called for the immediate protection [JURIST report] of thousands of Syrian civilians.

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