Militants used civilians as human shields in the course of the fighting against government forces in the eastern part of Syria’s Aleppo, says a report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria published in Geneva on Wednesday. The report focusses on events in Aleppo in July-December 2016.
“Some armed groups also committed the war crimes of withholding the distribution of humanitarian aid from the besieged population under their control, and actively denied civilian freedom of movement, used civilians as human shields, conducted arbitrary arrests and used civilian buildings for military purposes,” the document reads.
Attack on the UN convoy
The attack on the UN convoy, which took place on September 19, 2016, was conducted by the Syrian air force, the report said.
“The types of munitions used, the breadth of the area targeted and the duration of the attack strongly suggest that the attack was meticulously planned and ruthlessly carried out by the Syrian air force to purposefully hinder the delivery of humanitarian aid and target aid workers, constituting the war crimes of deliberately attacking humanitarian relief personnel, denial of humanitarian aid and targeting civilians,” the report reads.
The Commission claims that “satellite imagery, witness testimony, forensic evidence gathered at the site and data provided by Member States are consistent with the use of air delivered munitions and implicate Syrian forces in the attack.” In addition, the report says that “photographs provided by witnesses indicate that several S-5CB unguided air-to-surface anti-personnel rockets produced in the Soviet Union, at least one RBK-500 series air-delivered cluster bomb carrying hundreds of sub-munitions, and at least two OFAB 250-270 unguided aerial bombs were used. The Syrian air force possesses all of these weapons in its arsenal.”
The United Nations earlier set up a commission to investigate into the convoy attack. The commission issued a report in December 2016 saying it was impossible to establish who was responsible. Investigators came to the conclusion that the attack involved various types of munitions and aircraft.
A 31-truck convoy formed by the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) was attacked by air on 19 September, 2016, in Orum al-Kubra (western Aleppo governorate). The attack killed at least 14 civilian aid workers and left at least 15 others wounded.
Report on Aleppo
The report, compiled in view of the 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, is dedicated to the events that took place in the Syrian city of Aleppo in the July to December period of 2016.
The report “was prepared on the basis of 291 interviews, including those conducted remotely with residents of Aleppo city and governorate, and interviews conducted in person in the region and in Geneva.” The Commission also “collected, reviewed and analyzed satellite imagery, photographs, videos and medical records.” The Commission claims to have “obtained a reliable body of information to conclude that there are reasonable grounds to believe the incidents occurred as described, and that violations were committed by the warring party identified.”