Activists Urge UN to Cite Russia and Iran for War Crimes in Syria
Activists in Syria said they have given the United Nations evidence of alleged war crimes committed by Russian and Iranian-backed militias in the battle for Aleppo, Syria's second city. The Syrian activists wanted the militia to face justice for killing civilians and other war-time atrocities.
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On Wednesday, Fadel Abdul Ghany, head of the Syrian Network for Human rights, and Husam Alkatlaby, director of the Violations Documentation Center, met with United Nations investigators as they pressed the UN to probe crimes committed during the long-drawn siege of Aleppo last month.
According to Ghany, activists found a similarity between the violations committed by the Russians and the (Syrian) regime, and sometimes, the Russians exceed the regime in some kinds of violations.
"We recorded the killing of 1,305 civilians at the hands of Russian forces," Ghany told the media, in reference to the victims who perished in Russian air strikes between July and December last year. Approximately one-third of the recorded fatalities were children.
Ghany said that all the incidents they presented to UN investigators are violations of the international humanitarian law (IHL). The activist added that lots of the incidences amount to war crimes, especially the ones targeting vital civilian centers.
According to Ghany, the Russian air force was trying to target specific points such as hospitals and schools.
A local ceasefire was reached on Dec. 15 after months of air strikes and the Syrian army closing in on the besieged areas of Aleppo. The ceasefire allowed tens of thousands of civilians and opposition fighters to leave the city.
Ghany said that since the Russian air force began its campaign on Sep. 30 last year, they have killed a minimum of 4,000 Syrians. The activists documented 31 cluster munition attacks in Aleppo by Russian forces and three by Syrian government forces. They also accused Russia and Syria of using banned incendiary weapons.
The Syrian government has rejected accusations that it has carried out human rights abuses. It has also denied alleged torture, extrajudicial killings, and use of chemical and incendiary weapons on civilians.
Russia said that accusations of war crimes against its armed forces are part of a western-backed propaganda campaign.