your daily drips of poison from the nazi groon & the nyt

UN inquiry stops short of directly blaming Russia over Idlib attacks
Bethan McKernan, Groon, Apr 7 2020

A UN investigation has stopped short of directly calling Russia a perpetrator in attacks on hospitals and other humanitarian infrastructure in rebel-held areas of Syria, a move greeted with disappointment from rights groups. A summary of a 185-page internal report submitted to the UNSC on Monday said that in five of seven cases studied, among them four medical sites, a school and a children’s centre, “the government of Syria and/or its allies had carried out the airstrike,” but it did not explicitly name Russia, Assad’s the Syrian government’s most important military and political ally. The coordinates of all the sites had been registered as part of the UN’s deconfliction system and shared with Moscow and other warring parties in order to prevent attacks. HRW said:

The refusal to explicitly name Russia as a responsible party working alongside the Syrian government … is deeply disappointing.

War monitors and the health directorate White Helmets of north-western Idlib province, Syria’s last rebel-held stronghold, say at least 70 health-care facilities have been hit by regime government and Russian bombing in the last 12 months. Last year the NYT published an exhaustive investigation, notably including recordings of Russian pilots, that directly incriminated Russia in attacks on hospitals in rebel areas. Kenneth Roth of HRW wrote on Twitter:

In July last year the UNSC issued a rare formal diplomatic petition demanding Guterres open an investigation into airstrikes on medical facilities. The move infuriated Moscow, which has repeatedly used international forums such as its veto as a permanent member of the UNSC to shield Assad the Syrian government from international action. Since intervening in the Syrian war on the regime’s behalf in 2015, Russia has repeatedly denied that its own aircraft target civilian sites. Guterres attributed the small number of incidents examined in the new report to the absence of UN personnel on the ground and refusal of permission to visit the sites. The commission looked at bombings carried out between Apr-Jul 2019 in Idlib and the surrounding countryside. One hospital was deselected for not meeting the investigation’s criteria, and a raid on a refugee camp was likely to have been carried out by an Islamist group, the report said. The board of inquiry was established in September and its report was supposed to have been submitted by the end of 2019 but was delayed until March. Western countries have been demanding for months that a summary of the report be published. Media reports suggest Russian diplomats pressured Guterres’s office not to release it. The Syrian and Russian delegations to the UN did not immediately comment on the findings.

UN Inquiry Into Syria Bombings Is Silent on Russia’s Role
Evan Hill, NYT, Apr 6 2020

A UN investigation into attacks on humanitarian sites in Syria concluded in a report released on Monday that the Syrian government or its allies had committed most of them, but failed to name Russia, the most important of those allies, as a perpetrator. The board of inquiry looked into just six of the hundreds of attacks on sites like hospitals and schools committed during the Syrian civil war. In a summary of its work, the board refrained from specifically blaming Russia, despite strong evidence, previously published by the NYT, that a Russian warplane had carried out one of the six, the bombing of a school. The inquiry stated only:

The Government of Syria and/or its allies had carried out the airstrike.

Richard Gowan of the International Crisis Group said:

This is a deliberately mealy-mouthed report. On a charitable reading, this summary contains enough oblique and tentative statements confirming the Syrian government and Russians’ responsibility. On a less charitable reading, this is an effort to minimize offending Moscow that reflects the fact that UN boxtops believe that continued cooperation with Russia is key to the future of humanitarian operations in Syria.

Human rights and advocacy groups had criticized the board of inquiry’s limited scope after its establishment by Sec-Gen Guterres in August, saying it ignored hundreds of other attacks on hospitals, clinics and medical personnel committed by the government of Pres Assad and his and its Russian ally. Physicians for Human Rights has documented at least 595 such attacks since the civil war began in 2011. Of those, 282 have occurred since Russia intervened in Sep 2015 in support of Assad the government. At least 923 medical workers have been killed since 2011. The Syrian government or its allies, primarily Russia, committed 536 of the 595 attacks, according to the group’s statistics. Susannah Sirkin of Physicians for Human Rights said:

The UN Sec-Gen’s extremely limited investigation was doomed from the beginning. It failed to account for the overwhelming evidence that the Syrian and Russian governments have executed a consistent and brutal strategy of bombing hospitals, schools and civilian sites.

But Sec-Gen. Guterres gave the inquiry a mandate only to look into attacks on humanitarian targets that had been supported by the UN or included in its “deconfliction” system, through which organizations could register their sites in the hope of protecting them from attack. The inquiry looked at seven specific strikes carried out from Apr-Jul 2019 in opposition-held territory in north-western Syria: on a school, a refugee camp, a children’s services center, three hospitals and a medical clinic. The board dropped one of the hospitals from its review, concluding that it did not match Guterres’s criteria. It also determined that among the six attacks it had investigated, the Syrian government or its allies had committed all but the one against the refugee camp, which the board said was probably carried out by opposition forces. David Miliband of the International Rescue Committee said:

The charges in this report could not be more serious. And the incidents the report studied are the tip of the iceberg.

The NYT has previously reported that Russian warplanes bombed a string of hospitals in north-western Syria over one 12-hour period in May 2019 and then returned to bomb one of those hospitals again in November. The hospital that was bombed twice, in the town of Kafr Nabl, was one of the sites under investigation by the board of inquiry. But instead of looking into the two Russian attacks, it focused instead on a separate attack on the same hospital, carried out by the Syrian government in July. Before the inquiry’s publication of the report, Russia pressed Guterres not to release its conclusions, diplomats have said. Russia has vetoed 14 UNSCRs calling for action on Syria since 2011. In December, it blocked a resolution on cross-border aid deliveries from Turkey and Iraq to millions of Syrian civilians. Louis Charbonneau of HRW said the refusal to explicitly name Russia was “deeply disappointing.” He added that the widespread attacks on humanitarian facilities and hospitals in north-western Syria had, in addition to causing direct suffering, led to “a tragic and criminal reduction” in the area’s ability to deal with the likely spread of coronavirus. The Russian and Syrian missions to the UN did not comment on the report. The report also addressed some flaws in the deconfliction system, which relief groups had harshly criticized for failing to prevent attacks on hospitals and being marred by factual errors. The system, run by the UN OCHA, was meant to share the coordinates of protected facilities among the warring parties, including Russia. The report found that until September the UN did not have procedures for verifying, storing and updating those coordinates, and that confusion over exactly what the system would do to protect humanitarian sites had led to mistrust. Miliband called on the UN to develop “accountability mechanisms to deter further attacks and bring justice for those who have already suffered.” Gowan said he doubted that the report would do anything to deter Russia. He said:

It may reassure Syrian and Russian officers that they are unlikely to face any real accountability in future.

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