Aleppo battle: both sides accused of war crimes

Mar 02, 2017, 00:43
Aleppo battle: both sides accused of war crimes

In its report summary, the inquiry said: "The battle for control over Aleppo city was a stage of unrelenting violence, with civilians on both sides falling victim to war crimes committed by all parties".

Investigating the period between July and December of a year ago, when battles in Aleppo were ongoing, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic did not attribute any war crimes to the Russian forces. The report states that Syrian forces repeatedly targeted [press release] hospitals, schools, orphanages, and residential homes with bombings to target civilians and force a surrender.

"Hundreds of civilians - many of them children - lost their lives to the daily bombardments that used concrete piercing bombs, cluster munition, incendiary weapons and crudely weaponised chlorine canisters on civilian inhabited areas".

The evacuation of the rebel enclave in eastern Aleppo in December, which brought the battle to an end, also amounted to forced displacement, the investigators say.

Russian Federation released what it said was proof that rebels had bombed the convoy - including drone footage that Moscow claimed showed rebels with heavy weapons were riding with the convoy at the time it was attacked.

The UN investigators said an "alarming number" of allegations of the use of chlorine were reported during the siege of eastern Aleppo.

Both sides were guilty of carrying out indiscriminate attacks in densely populated civilian areas, it said, adding that rebels had launched imprecise mortar attacks on government-held neighborhoods.

The report also states that armed groups targeted western Aleppo for the sole objective of terrorizing civilians.

There is conclusive evidence that Syrian aircraft dropped "toxic industrial chemicals, including chlorine", the inquiry found.

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"Such agreements amount to the war crime of forced displacement of the civilian population", United Nations investigators concluded, stressing that the deal in Aleppo was made "for strategic reasons - and not for the security of civilians".

Opposition groups shelled government-controlled western Aleppo, killing and injuring dozens, the report said.

On 9 August, Major Yasser Abd ar-Rahim, a Fatah Halab rebel commander, delivered a statement vowing that the coalition of armed groups would take "revenge" on the Kurds in Sheikh Maqsoud, specifying that they would "not find a place to bury their dead in Aleppo".

As the situation deteriorated in eastern Aleppo, some armed groups withheld humanitarian aid from civilians, violently prevented them from trying to flee across the frontline and used them as human shields, according to the investigators.

In December 2016, the Syrian regime said it took full control of Aleppo after five years of fighting.

The UN report also said Syrian government forces executed presumed rebel fighters and their supporters as they rolled through eastern Aleppo in December.

It said the Syrian government must carry out "investigations into the conduct of their forces and make their findings public", and that rebels must "repudiate extreme elements and apply effective leverage for compliance with worldwide law".

Others were arrested and their whereabouts remain unknown.

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