Report accuses Syrian forces of crimes against humanity

Philip Luther

Philip Luther

Syrian forces’ ‘surrender or starve’ tactics are crimes against humanity according to a new report.

Civilian populations in Syria subjected to intensive bombardments have been given no choice but to leave or die under so-called “reconciliation” agreements between the Syrian government and armed opposition groups, Amnesty International has said.

The agreements, reached between August 2016 and March this year, have led to the displacement of thousands of residents from six besieged areas: Daraya, eastern Aleppo city, al-Waer, Madaya, Kefraya and Foua.

Amnesty’s 83-page report, ‘We leave or we die’: Forced displacement under Syria’s ‘reconciliation’ agreements, which comes ahead of Syria talks in Geneva later this month, examines four of these local pacts, documenting human rights violations dating back to 2012.

Having interviewed 134 people, including displaced residents who have lived through sieges and attacks, as well as humanitarian workers, journalists and UN officials, Amnesty said that Syrian government’s sieges, unlawful killings and forced displacement constituted crimes against humanity.

Amnesty also reviewed dozens of videos and analysed satellite imagery to corroborate witness accounts. The organisation sought comments on its findings from the Syrian and Russian authorities, which did not reply, and from the Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement, which did.

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research and Advocacy director, (pictured), said: “While the Syrian government’s stated aim has been to vanquish opposition fighters, its cynical use of ‘surrender or starve’ tactics has involved a devastating combination of sieges and bombardments. These have been part of a systematic, as well as widespread, attack on civilians that amounts to crimes against humanity.

“If the Syrian government, as well as armed opposition groups such as the Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, are serious about reconciliation, they must immediately put an end to these unlawful practices, lift sieges and end attacks on the thousands of civilians who remain besieged across Syria.

“All states should co-operate to bring an end to the dark stain on the world’s conscience that ongoing impunity for such crimes represents. There is no simpler way for them to do so than to provide support and resources to the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism recently established by the UN to assist in investigating and prosecuting those responsible.”