UN: Syria, Russia did not bomb hospitals in Idlib


UN investigators did not directly call Russia the culprit for attacks on hospitals, schools and other humanitarian infrastructure in rebel-held areas of Syria. This caused disappointment among human rights organizations.

On Monday, a 185-page summary of the internal report was submitted to the UN Security Council stating that in five of the seven cases investigated (four medical facilities, one school and a children’s center), “the Syrian government and / or its allies struck”. But investigators did not openly name Russia, which is Bashar al-Assad’s most important military and political ally.

The coordinates of all these places are registered in the UN deconfliction system and transferred to Moscow, as well as to other warring parties in order to avoid new attacks.

Human Rights Watch said: “The refusal to openly call Russia the responsible party interacting with the Syrian government … is deeply disappointing.”

Observers of the fighting and the health department of the northwestern province of Idlib, which became the last stronghold of the rebels, report that at least 70 health facilities have been hit by the regime and Russian bombing over the past 12 months.

Last year, the New York Times published an exhaustive investigation, including recordings of negotiations between Russian pilots, which indicate that Russia is directly involved in attacks on hospitals in rebel-held areas.

Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth tweeted: “UN Secretary-General Anthony Guterres gave exceptionally narrow powers to the commission to investigate attacks on Syrian hospitals, and as a result, the commission produced an evasive report, fearing to offend Russia, which is the main culprit along with Syria.”

In July last year, the Security Council issued a rare official diplomatic motion for him, in which he demanded that Guterres begin an investigation into the facts of airstrikes on medical facilities.

This step aroused indignation in Moscow, which constantly uses international forums, as well as its veto power of a permanent member of the UN Security Council to protect Assad from international sanctions. Having intervened in the Syrian war on the side of the regime in 2015, Russia repeatedly denied that its aircraft were attacking civilian targets.

Guterres explained the small number of incidents investigated and described in the new report as the absence of UN personnel on the ground and the fact that investigators were denied visits to many places.

The commission examined the bombing attacks carried out in Idlib and its surrounding areas between April and July 2019. She refused an investigation in one hospital, because she did not meet the criteria of the investigators. And the attack on the refugee camp was most likely carried out by one of the Islamic groups, the report said.

An investigation commission was created in September, and it was supposed to submit its report at the end of 2019, but postponed it until March.

Western countries have been demanding a summary of the report for several months. The media suggest that Russian diplomats exerted pressure on the Guterres office to ensure that it did not publish a summary of the report.

The Syrian and Russian delegations to the UN have not yet commented on these findings.


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