Russian and Syrian armed forces are deliberately attacking hospitals and other medical facilities as part of a military strategy to clear the way to northern Aleppo, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] claimed in a report [text] Thursday. AI says the pattern of airstrikes on medical centers appears to be consistent with a violation of international law. Under international law, hospitals are afforded protection from attack as long as the facility is not engaged in “hostile” activity, and is acting in a humanitarian capacity. Testimony collected by AI from doctors in the region suggests that the hospitals are often the first vital civilian resource to be targeted by forces in order to clear out the towns. A report [text] by Physicians for Human Rights [advocacy website] says that 346 attacks have impacted medical facilities.
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. Earlier this week the US House Foreign Affairs Committee [official website] passed [press release] two resolutions calling for an international tribunal in the Middle East to address the alleged war crimes [JURIST report] committed by the government of Syria and its allies, specifically Russia and Iran. In February the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights reported that the Syrian government is systematically exterminating detainees [JURIST report]. 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.