US Secretary of State John Kerry [official profile] on Friday called for an investigation [remarks] of alleged war crimes committed against Syrian civilians by both Russia and the Syrian regime. The secretary made the plea ahead of his meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault [official profile]. Kerry’s statement comes the morning after yet another deadly Russian attack on a hospital. The secretary said that 20 lives were lost, along with 100 people wounded. He recognized the attacks on medical facilities as strategic, and “[y]ears beyond the accidental.” Foreign Minister Ayrault called the situation in Syria a “human tragedy,” and pleaded for peace and negotiations.
The conflict in Syria [JURIST backgrounder] has continued for five years in a civil war surrounding the legitimacy of Bashar al-Assad. For much of that time attacks have taken place on humanitarian convoys, medical facilities, and other forms of critical civilian aid. In September the EU called attacks in Aleppo a “breach of international humanitarian law” [JURIST report], denouncing the targeting of a humanitarian convoy hit by an airstrike the week prior. That same month the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria urged parties in the Syrian conflict to return to the “negotiation table” after a new report highlighted an increase of violence suffered by civilians [JURIST report]. The report noted that along with summary executions, forced displacement, and indiscriminate shelling and airstrikes the Syrian people lack sufficient access to life-saving medical services. In May the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria called on factions on both sides of the Syrian civil war to ensure their targets are not unlawful civilian sites [JURIST report], such as hospitals.