Syria: impunity in ongoing Ghouta war crimes
Medical facilities supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the besieged enclave of Eastern Ghouta report having received 1,000 dead and upwards of 4,800 wounded over the two-week period ending March 4. This figure is an underestimate, as it does not include information from all medical facilities supported by MSF in the area, or from facilities not supported by MSF. Warplanes of the Assad regime and its Russian allies continue their apparent intentional targeting of hospitals; 15 out of 20 facilities supported by MSF in East Ghouta have been hit by bombing or shelling during the recent escalation.
A UN convoy delivering urgently needed aid to Eastern Ghouta cut short its mission March 5 and left the enclave amid shelling—despite a supposed five-hour truce to allow the aid delivery. The aborted aid convoy was the first since mid-February. (BBC News, March 5)
The regime has been accused of repeatedly using chlorine gas and phosphorus weapons in its offensive on the enclave. The French foreign ministry this week threatened "intervention measures" if claims of chemical weapons use are proved true. (Al Jazeera, March 9)
But Russia has repeatedly used its Security Council veto to block any investigation into Syrian chemical attacks. And Russia is itself accused of war crimes in Syria.
UN investigators on March 6 reported that Russian air-strikes on a market in the town of Atareb, in Aleppo governorate, may constitute a war crime. The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria stated that on Nov. 13 "the Russian Air Force carried out airstrikes on a densely populated civilian area in Atareb (Aleppo), killing at least 84 people and injuring another 150. Using unguided weapons, the attack struck a market, police station, shops, and a restaurant."
The Commission says that while there is no evidence to indicate that the Russian attack deliberately targeted civilians, "the use of unguided bombs, including blast weapons, in a densely civilian populated area may amount to the war crime of launching indiscriminate attacks resulting in death and injury to civilians." (Jurist, March 7)