UN investigators: states must prevent attacks on Syria hospitals

UN investigators: states must prevent attacks on Syria hospitals

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria [advocacy website] on Wednesday called [press release] on factions on both sides of the Syrian civil war to ensure their targets are not unlawful civilian sites such as hospitals. The statement comes after a recent attack on a camp for internally displaced persons that wounded dozens of civilians and killed others. The Commission warned that such targets violate international law and amount to war crimes:

[T]here have been over a half dozen attacks against other medical facilities in the area; all of which are specifically protected sites under international humanitarian law. Scores of civilian victims and medical personnel have been wounded or killed in these attacks. In recent weeks, markets, bakeries, and a water station have also been aerially bombarded. With the only one supply route still open to opposition-controlled areas of Aleppo city, the destruction of food, water and medical supplies raises grave concerns for the civilians within.

The commission called on all parties to follow established guidelines of lawful targeting and to cease disrupting civilian and humanitarian sites.

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. UN top official Stephen O’Brien last Thursday called [JURIST report] for the immediate investigation of recent airstrikes in Syria, which may amount to war crimes for intentionally targeting civilians. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in April urged [JURIST report] all parties to disengage from all-out war in Syria, expressing deep concern over a “monstrous disregard for civilian lives.”