Amnesty International accused the Russian troops of the murder of hundreds of civilians in Syria and the use of cluster ammunition and unguided air-to-surface missiles in living quarters. The full version of the respective report is published at the organization’s website.
The report focuses on six air strikes that took place in Syrian provinces of Homs, Idlib and Aleppo from September through November 2015. By the estimates of Amnesty International, at least 200 peaceful citizens were killed during the air strikes.
“Some Russian air strikes appear to have directly attacked civilians or civilian objects by striking residential areas with no evident military target and even medical facilities, resulting in deaths and injuries to civilians”, said Phillip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International. “These strikes may be considered as war crimes”.
The report noted that the cause of such strikes could be a mistake or unwillingness of the Russian pilots to avoid or at least minimize the damage to civilians and the civilian infrastructure.
The report also includes references to missile and bombs hitting living quarters, a military hospital, a market and a mosque. According to the Amnesty International data, a mosque in Idlib province was destroyed. The Russian Defense Ministry denied that and provided an aerial photograph with a mosque on it. Amnesty International said it was a different mosque.
Earlier, members of Human Rights Watch came up with alike accusations against Russia. The organization’s report included references to the chaotic nature of Russian air strikes, as well as the extended use of cluster ammunition which contravenes the respective UN resolution on the Syrian conflict.
Earlier this week, Dmitry Peskov, Press Secretary of Russian President Vladimir Putin, commented on the accusations of the use of cluster ammunition in Syria. According to him, Russia’s Air Force operation in Syria is being conducted “in strict accordance with the norms of international law”.
The use of cluster ammunition is prohibited by the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the international treaty that prohibits the use, transfer and stockpile of cluster bombs, a type of explosive weapon which scatters submunitions over an area. The document was adopted in May 2008 in Dublin. It entered into force in August 2010, six months after it was ratified by 30 states. As of October 2015, 108 states have signed the treaty and 98 have ratified it or acceded to it. The world’s leading producers of such ammunition – Russia, the USA and China – didn’t sign the agreement.
The civil war in Syria between the government forces led by President Bashaar al-Assad and the armed opposition is underway since 2011. Since last year, ISIS militants have been taking active part in the conflict; they captured large areas in northwestern regions of the country. By the request of al-Assad, in September 2015, Russia sent an Air Force wing to Syria, starting a military campaign against the ISIL.