AP NEW YORK: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres selected a Nigerian general on Friday to lead a UN investigation into attacks on hospitals and other civilian sites in Syria’s last opposition stronghold in the northwest amid protests that its findings will be kept secret.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced that the three-member board of inquiry to start work Sept. 30 will be led by Lt. Gen. Chikadibia Obiakor and include Janet Lim of Singapore and Maria Santos Pais of Portugal.
Dujarric stressed that the board will only ascertain the facts of the attacks and will not assess blame. Its findings “are internal documents and not for public release,” he said.
Guterres announced plans for the board Aug. 1 following a series of attacks on hospitals, schools and other civilian facilities in Idlib and the de-confliction area in northwest Syria.
David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said: “It’s vital that the findings are made public, first of all so that justice can be done, but also so that it’s clear to combatants in Syria or elsewhere that there will be accountability for them for their actions. “The great fear of an unpublished report is that the facts never get out, and if the facts never get out there can’t be any accountability.”
Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch, said the board of inquiry “should work quickly to attribute attacks on medical facilities and other humanitarian sites in Syria to the forces who committed them.”
“The secretary-general should make the investigators’ findings public. The UN needs to remind Russia, Syria and other parties to the conflict that targeting humanitarian facilities is a war crime and those responsible will be held to account.”
UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said more than 500 civilians have been killed and many hundreds injured since the offensive began. The UN health and children’s agencies reported then that 43 health facilities, 87 educational facilities, 29 water stations and seven markets had been affected by the fighting, he said.