US rejects UN suggestion its Syria air strikes could constitute ‘war crimes’

The UN Commission of Inquiry pointed to a series of air strikes carried out by the coalition in January in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor. (File/AFP)
Updated 12 September 2019
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US rejects UN suggestion its Syria air strikes could constitute ‘war crimes’

  • The Commission has also repeatedly accused the Syrian government and its main backer Russia, as well as other actors in the conflict of a wide range of war crimes
  • Numerous rounds of UN-led peace talks have failed to end a war that has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions

GENEVA: Washington’s top envoy for Syria rejected Thursday an allegation put forward in a UN report that some US-led air strikes in the conflict-torn country could possibly be categorized as indiscriminate attacks, amounting to “war crimes.”
James Jeffrey, the US special representative on Syria, dismissed findings published in a UN report on Wednesday suggesting that the US-led coalition had with a number of air strikes in the country “failed to employ the necessary precautions to discriminate adequately between military objectives and civilians.”
The UN Commission of Inquiry, which has been investigating human rights violations in Syria’s drawn-out war for the past eight years, pointed to a series of air strikes carried out by the coalition in January in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, including one that killed 16 civilians.
“The Commission finds that there are reasonable grounds to believe that international coalition forces may not have directed their attacks at a specific military objective, or failed to do so with the necessary precaution,” the report said.
“Launching indiscriminate attacks that result in death or injury to civilians amounts to a war crime in cases in which such attacks are conducted recklessly,” stressed the Commission, which has also suggested in previous reports that US-led strikes in Syria could amount to war crimes.
The Commission has also repeatedly accused the Syrian government and its main backer Russia, as well as other actors in the conflict of a wide range of war crimes.
“We take extreme care in every military operation,” Jeffrey told journalists in Geneva when asked about the report.
“We do not accept the findings of that particular body,” he said.
Jeffrey was in Geneva Wednesday for consultations with the UN envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen.
Pedersen, a seasoned Norwegian diplomat who took over the job in January, is trying to help create a committee to draft a post-war constitution for Syria.
His predecessor, Staffan de Mistura, stepped down after his four years in the post ended with a year-long abortive push to form the constitutional committee.
But Pedersen, who has been consulting extensively with the various Syrian actors, as well as with countries with influence in the conflict, voiced optimism that the constitutional committee could soon see the light of day.
Following his meeting with representatives from Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United States Thursday, he told journalists he was “confident that we are moving forward.
“Hopefully I can have positive news on this in the very near future.”
Numerous rounds of UN-led peace talks have failed to end a war that has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.


Israeli army raids offices of Palestinian NGO

Updated 10 min 56 sec ago

Israeli army raids offices of Palestinian NGO

  • Israeli soldiers forced their way into the offices of prisoner support group Addameer in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah
  • No staff were in the office at that time as thousands of dollars worth of equipment, including five computers were seized

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: Israel’s army raided the offices of a prominent Palestinian NGO early Thursday, its director said, in an operation Amnesty International said aimed to “crush peaceful activism.”
Israeli soldiers forced their way into the offices of prisoner support group Addameer in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah at around 2:00 am, the organization’s director Sahar Francis said.
No staff were in the office at that time, she said, but Israeli forces seized thousands of dollars worth of equipment, including five computers.
“They searched the whole office,” Francis said.
Addameer works to support Palestinian prisoners in both Israeli and Palestinian prisons.
Israeli right-wing activists accuse it of links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union.
The Israeli army did not immediately respond to request for comment on the raid.
Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East Director Saleh Higazi condemned the “chilling raid,” labelling it an Israeli attempt “to crush peaceful activism and silence NGOs.”
“This was a sinister and calculated attack designed to curtail Addameer’s vital human rights work,” he said in a statement.
The NGO, which documents allegations of abuse in Israeli prisons, has been raided twice before, most recently in 2012.
Francis said that time they had smashed the door and also seized computers.
“We never got back the things they stole in 2012, despite making a request,” she said.
An Addameer employee has also been detained without charge since last year under Israel’s administrative detention laws, Amnesty said.
Higazi said the raid was part of an intensifying Israeli campaign against civil society organizations.
Human Rights Watch’s director for Israel and the Palestinian territories is currently fighting an Israeli expulsion order over allegations he called for a boycott of Israel.
The country in 2017 passed a law banning entry to foreigners supporting a boycott.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since a 1967 war.
The office is in a part of the West Bank nominally under full Palestinian control, but the Israeli army regularly carries out raids in such areas.