International Affairs

Human Rights in Idlib

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Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera

What is The Fate Of Russia’s Putin and Syria’s Assad After The Human Right Watch Report On Their War Crimes in Idlib

The human rights News Watch released recently a report, examining the 11-month offensive on Idlib, spearheaded by the coalition of the Syrian and Russian governments. The report contains, in total, documentation of 46 land and air attack which directly or indirectly harmed civilians and civilian infrastructures such as markets, schools, hospitals, and many such structures, unconcerned with the 9-year long conflict.

The 11-month long Russian-Syrian offensive which began in April 2019 led to the death of at least, 1,600 civilians, and the balkanization of civilian infrastructures led to the displacement of about 1.4million people. The documentation of these unlawful offensives include interviews by the Human Rights News Watch of 113  victims and witnesses of the attacks as wells as workers involved in the battlefield to cater to the health of victims and rescuing of children, dozens of aerial images, and over 500 photographs and video records of the war sight.

In March 2020 Russia and Turkey, two supporters of different sides in the warring factions organized a ceasefire. And since then, no one in Syria or Russia has been held accountable for these infringements on human right. In fact, Russia and Syria have further compounded the injury of their attrocities by  blocking humanitarian aids from reaching the civilians in need of them. The Human Rights News Watch report, as a result, names 10 Senior Syrian and Russian civilian and Millitary officials who could be held responsible for the war crimes in the light of the fact that they knew or should have known about the abuses and did nothing to stop them or bring to book, those involved.

The Syrian crisis began under Bashir al-Assad’s government in 2011 and since then, has had the support of Putin’s Russia. At first, the support was through political alliance and provision of military aid. However, since 2015, it has metamorphosed to direct military involvement by the Russian forces. The direct involvement of Russia in the conflict marked the first time Russia interfered in an armed conflict outside the borders of the former parent-state, the Soviet Union, since the end of the Cold War. The biggest criticism of the Russian intervention, as highlighted in the Human Rights Watch Reports, is that the airstrikes are allegedly focused on the destruction of hospitals, medical facilities, markets, and also, the killing of several thousands of innocent civilians. It is on record, according to a report by Airways, that in the first half of 2018, there was a 34% increase in damages to Civilian infrastructures, compared to the whole of 2017.

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The Russian-Syrian alliance dates back to the Cold War which began in 1947 and lasted till 1991. Russia had been part of the Soviet Union at the time and this alliance by both states were formed in opposition to Western powers and since then, the political bond between both states has waxed from strength to strength. The Soviet Union has since assisted Syria on multiple occasions, including the donation of about $294million between 1955 to 1958 which, a period which courses through the Suez war of 1956, for military and economic assistance. The 1966 Syrian Revolution provided Soviet Union the opportunity to come to Syria’s aid once more, and their friendship grew stronger. The Syrian government responded to Soviet Union’s support in 1971 under President Hafez al-Assad’s government, to allow Russia establish a military base in Tartus, giving Russia a solid based in the Middle East. When the Syrian conflict began in 2011, Russia was one of President Bashir al-Assad’s closest allies. This was no object of surprise.

The recently documented 11-month long Russian-Syrian attacks on Idlib has disobeyed law wars on the violation of Civil rights and Civil infrastructures. There was no evidence found, in each of the 46 incidents, of opposition attacks and no military offenses from the opposition and most of these attacks were carried out in resident areas populated with civilians. The attacks occurred in fronts far away from the active warfront between Syria and its opposition, and they all took place without any prior warnings to civilians by the Syrian-Russian alliance.

The Russian-Syrian alliance has offered, as an explanation, that its attacks were a response to ‘repeated attacks on its forces by anti-government armed groups’ and that it is an effort to counter terrorism. It has also denied committing war crimes in spite of all the evidence gathered over time by Amnesty International and Human Rights News Watch. They claimed that its operation reneged on the laws of war.

There had, as a result, been calls for the prosecution of Presidents Putin of Russia and al-Assad of Syria by the Amnesty International and Human Rights News Watch. Both Presidents have over the decades, gained the reputation of being petulant political figures whose policies have always been opposed to those of the Western world. Notably, they have shown, as is mirrored in the Idlib conflict, spearheaded by the Russian-Syrian Alliance, that they have little or no regard for human rights in these affairs.

As at the time of filing a summary of its reports, later released as a 167-paged document, The Human Rights Watch was yet to receive a reply to the questions posed by its findings on the havocs wrecked by the Russian-Syrian inquiry. It remains to be known how the United Nations Inquiry council intends to pursue it.

Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera is a writer and journalist and can be reached at chukwuderamichael@gmail.com

Photo Credit: TRT World

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