Syrians accuse Russia of bombing Kafranbel Hospital in 2019

The Syria Civil Defence during the rescue of civilians subjected to aerial bombardment by Russian aircraft in Khan Sheikhoun, south of Idlib - July 13, 2019 (Syria Civil Defence)

The Syria Civil Defence during the rescue of civilians subjected to aerial bombardment by Russian aircraft in Khan Sheikhoun, south of Idlib - July 13, 2019 (Syria Civil Defence)


A Syrian man and a relief organization have accused Russia of violating international law by deliberately bombing a hospital in northern Syria in 2019, according to a new complaint submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Reuters reported today, Thursday, May 2, that UN investigators have accused Russia of committing war crimes in Syria, but it has not faced any international court.

In September 2015, Russia militarily intervened alongside the Syrian regime, which had been trying to suppress a revolt against it since its outbreak in 2011, and Moscow was the main planner of military operations documented for violations of international war laws.

According to Reuters, the new complaint against Russia was submitted yesterday, Wednesday, and announced today, Thursday, accusing the Russian Air Force of killing two civilians in a series of air raids on the Kafranbel Surgical Hospital in Idlib province, northwest Syria, on May 5, 2019.

The complaint was presented to the committee by the cousin of the victims and the Hand in Hand for Aid and Development organization, a relief group that supported the hospital, which was located in an area controlled by the Syrian opposition at that time.

The complaint relies on video recordings, eyewitness accounts, and audio recordings, including correspondence between a Russian pilot and the ground control center about the dropping of munitions.

The organization involved in the complaint posted a statement through Facebook today, Thursday, by its regional director Fadi al-Deiry, who said that the Russian attack on the Kafranbel Surgical Hospital was part of a systematic attack on hospitals and healthcare facilities in northwest Syria.

He added that after intensive efforts over five years, the lawsuit was officially accepted by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), after the full evidence became available from video and audio recordings, and eyewitness accounts detailing the Russian forces’ attack on Kafranbel Hospital and three other nearby hospitals within just 12 hours.

The Justice Initiative rights group (according to its statement) represents this case in the International Court of Justice, in addition to evidence contributed by the Syria Civil Defence (The White Helmets), detailed journalistic investigations by The New York Times, and research prepared by the Syrian Archive and the Physicians for Human Rights.

While human rights organizations have accused both Russia and the Syrian regime of violating international law in Syria for years, neither is a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and accountability opportunities are rare, according to Reuters.

Systematic targeting

In 2019, The New York Times published audio recordings it said belonged to the Russian Air Force, during its bombing operations in Syria.

The newspaper reported that it obtained communications conducted by Russian Air Force pilots while bombing medical facilities, through decoding thousands of radio broadcast waves belonging to the Russian forces, documenting months of pilot activity.

The investigation published by the newspaper on October 13, 2019, showed Russian aircraft bombing four hospitals in areas outside the control of the Syrian regime, including Kafranbel Hospital referred to in the legal lawsuit.

According to the American newspaper, the air raids targeted four hospitals within just 12 hours, in May 2019, using statements from eyewitnesses and staff at air traffic observatories, and audio recordings of the Russian Air Force, considered as “proof of Russian pilots’ involvement in all these raids”.

Despite repeated accusations directed at Russia, which it denied through statements by officials and Russian diplomats, Russian accounts previously published video recordings of bombings affecting the al-Atarib Hospital west of Aleppo and near the Bab al-Hawa crossing near the Syrian-Turkish border.

The recordings published on March 23, 2021, showed direct targeting of the hospital and the exit of patients and medical staff after the shells fell directly, as well as a large explosion targeting the vicinity of the crossing.



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