[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [text, PDF] Thursday that Syrian authorities deliberately demolished residential neighborhoods with explosives and bulldozers in Damascus and Hama over the last year. The report found that the demolitions are related to the violent conflict in Syria between the government and opposition forces. HRW officials found the correlation between the armed conflict and the demolitions from eyewitness testimonies, statements from government officials and the military’s involvement in the demolitions. HRW believes this destruction to be in violation of the Hague Regulations [text], which forbid the unnecessary destruction of the enemy’s property, and the Geneva Conventions [text, PDF], which prohibits the “extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.” HRW urges the Syrian government to halt wanton destruction of property and urges the UN Security Council [official website] to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website].
The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has persisted for almost three years, and there is mounting international pressure to find an end to the conflict. The main opposition group within Syria, the Syrian National Coalition [official website], recently agreed to attend the Geneva II conference after an invitation to Iran was rescinded by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [UN backgrounder] last week. Following Iran’s original invitation to Geneva II, the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition announced [JURIST report] it would refuse to attend the peace talks if Iran was in attendance. Iran is the primary international supporter of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the current regime. UN pressure on Syria has mounted in the last month as evidence revealed signs of war crimes in the country. Last week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned [JURIST report] Syrian opposition groups that eyewitness reports of mass executions are violations of human rights and may amount to war crimes.