Syrians accuse Russia of hitting hospital in new complaint filed with UN rights committee

Syrians accuse Russia of hitting hospital in new complaint filed with UN rights committee
Moscow has repeatedly denied accusations that it violated international law in Syria.(FILE/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 02 May 2024
Follow

Syrians accuse Russia of hitting hospital in new complaint filed with UN rights committee

Syrians accuse Russia of hitting hospital in new complaint filed with UN rights committee
  • Moscow has repeatedly denied accusations that it violated international law in Syria

BEIRUT: A Syrian man and an aid organization have accused Russia of violating international law by deliberately bombing a hospital in northern Syria in 2019, in a new complaint filed at the United Nations Human Rights Committee this week.
Russia, which intervened militarily in Syria’s conflict in 2015 to bolster the forces of its ally President Bashar Assad, has been accused by UN investigators of committing war crimes in Syria, but has not faced any international tribunal.
Moscow has repeatedly denied accusations that it violated international law in Syria.
The new complaint, filed on May 1 but made public on Thursday, accuses Russia’s Air Force of killing two civilians in a series of air strikes on the Kafr Nobol Surgical Hospital in the northwest province of Idlib on May 5, 2019.
It was brought to the committee by the cousin of those killed and by Hand in Hand for Aid and Development, an aid group that was supporting the hospital, which was in territory held by armed groups opposed to Assad.
The complaint relies on videos, eyewitness statements and audio recordings, including correspondence between a Russian pilot and ground control about dropping munitions.
“Syrians are looking to the Human Rights Committee to show us some measure of redress by acknowledging the truth of this brutal attack, and the suffering caused,” said Fadi Al-Dairi, the director of Hand in Hand.
The Geneva-based Human Rights Committee is a body of independent experts that monitors the status of political and civil rights around the world, and can receive complaints by states and individuals on alleged violations.
Individual complaints can lead to compensation payments, investigations or other measures.
While rights groups have accused both Syria and Russia of violating international law within Syria for years, neither country is party to the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute, and opportunities for accountability are rare.
Russia signed onto the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1991, meaning it accepts the Human Rights Committee’s ability to consider complaints from individuals against it.
“This complaint before a preeminent international human rights tribunal exposes the Russian government and armed forces’ deliberate strategy of targeting health care in clear violation of the laws of war,” said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Justice Initiative, whose lawyers are representing the applicants.
In 2019, the UN Human Rights Commission — a separate body — said strikes on medical facilities in Syria including the Kafr Nobol hospital “strongly” suggested that “government-affiliated forces conducting these strikes are, at least partly, if not wholly, deliberately striking health facilities.”


Libyan airline executive held in migrant smuggling case

Libyan airline executive held in migrant smuggling case
Updated 5 sec ago
Follow

Libyan airline executive held in migrant smuggling case

Libyan airline executive held in migrant smuggling case
  • The airline flew “hundreds of people from east Asian countries without taking into account the obligations of the air carrier” and migration legislation, as well as international treaties ratified by Libya, the statement said

TRIPOLI: A Libyan airline’s commercial director has been arrested in an investigation into flying illegal migrants who intended to enter the United States to Nicaragua, the attorney general’s office said.
The case concerns flights organized by private airline Ghadames Air, the office said in a statement published overnight Sunday-Monday.
It said the airline flew “hundreds of people wishing to enter the territory of the United States through the territory of the Republic of Nicaragua, in violation of applicable immigration rules.”
Authorities ordered “the imprisonment of the commercial director of Ghadames Airlines for committing activity harmful to the country’s interests,” it said.
The airline flew “hundreds of people from east Asian countries without taking into account the obligations of the air carrier” and migration legislation, as well as international treaties ratified by Libya, the statement said.
It added that violation of “the protocol to combat the smuggling of migrants by land, sea and air” was of particular concern.
An investigation published in late May by Le Monde newspaper said several Ghadames Air charter flights took hundreds of Asian migrants to the Nicaraguan capital Managua from Benghazi and Tripoli.
Like most Libyan airlines, Ghadames Air is banned from entering European Union airspace for security reasons.
Libya has been wracked by division and unrest since the 2011 NATO-backed overthrow of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
The North African country is divided between two rival administrations, and has become a hub for tens of thousands of migrants seeking to reach Europe by sea.
According to the International Organization for Migration, there are more than 700,000 migrants in Libya, largely Nigerians and Egyptians.
However on July 10, Imad Trabelsi, interior minister in the Tripoli-based administration, said “there are approximately 2.5 million foreigners in Libya.”
He added that “70 to 80 percent of them entered the country illegally.”
 

 


Iraqis protest over summer blackouts and water shortages

Iraqis protest over summer blackouts and water shortages
Updated 13 min 7 sec ago
Follow

Iraqis protest over summer blackouts and water shortages

Iraqis protest over summer blackouts and water shortages
  • Iraq is the second-largest oil producer in the OPEC cartel, but despite having immense oil and gas reserves, it remains dependent on imports to meet its energy needs
  • Many households have just a few hours of mains electricity per day, and those who can afford it use private generators to keep fridges and air conditioners running

DIWANIYAH, Iraq: Hundreds of Iraqis in the southern province of Diwaniyah protested on Monday against power cuts and water shortages during the extreme heat of summer, an AFP correspondent said.
Decades of war have left the country’s infrastructure in a pitiful state, with power cuts worsening the blistering summer when temperatures often reach 50 Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) mostly in southern provinces.
Dozens of villages in Diwaniyah have also suffered for years from water shortages because of a four-year-long drought and reduced river flows.
On Monday, around 500 angry protesters encircled the municipality building in Shafeiya village, burning tires and chanting for better services.
“We don’t have electricity. We used to get it for only two hours (per day), but now it is only one hour and 15 minutes,” said protester Youssef Kamel.
“We don’t have water or agriculture,” he said, adding that “everyone has left to look for jobs” as laborers in the cities.
Last week, hundreds of people also protested outside electricity department offices in Ghamas district, blocking roads and burning tires.
On Saturday, police used tear gas to disperse protesters, and dozens were briefly detained.
Iraq is the second-largest oil producer in the OPEC cartel, but despite having immense oil and gas reserves, it remains dependent on imports to meet its energy needs.
Neighbouring Iran supplies about a third of its power sector requirements.
Many households have just a few hours of mains electricity per day, and those who can afford it use private generators to keep fridges and air conditioners running.
Anger over corruption, unemployment and blackouts helped to fuel deadly protests from late 2019 to mid-2020.
The protests morphed into an unprecedented anti-government movement, mostly across southern Iraq and in Baghdad, before a security crackdown killed more than 600 people.
 

 


Jordanian king, UK’s PM discuss ties, Gaza war

Jordanian king, UK’s PM discuss ties, Gaza war
Updated 15 min 28 sec ago
Follow

Jordanian king, UK’s PM discuss ties, Gaza war

Jordanian king, UK’s PM discuss ties, Gaza war
  • King Abdullah congratulates Keir Starmer on his recent election victory

AMMAN: Jordan’s King Abdullah II received a call on Monday from the newly elected UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer, and the parties discussed the strengthening of ties between their countries, the Jordan News Agency reported.

King Abdullah congratulated Starmer on his recent election victory and stressed Jordan’s commitment to enhancing cooperation for the benefit of both nations and the broader region’s security and stability.

The conversation also addressed the pressing issue of Israel’s war in Gaza, with King Abdullah emphasizing the urgency of rallying the international community to secure an immediate and lasting ceasefire, ensure the protection of civilians, and increase the flow of humanitarian aid to the region.

King Abdullah expressed his grave concerns about the potential for the conflict to expand regionally, and reiterated Jordan’s stance in support of a two-state solution remaining the sole path to achieving a just and comprehensive peace.
 


UN’s Gaza chief says scenes after Al-Mawasi attack among ‘most horrific’ of past 9 months

UN’s Gaza chief says scenes after Al-Mawasi attack among ‘most horrific’ of past 9 months
Updated 21 min 40 sec ago
Follow

UN’s Gaza chief says scenes after Al-Mawasi attack among ‘most horrific’ of past 9 months

UN’s Gaza chief says scenes after Al-Mawasi attack among ‘most horrific’ of past 9 months
  • Scott Anderson describes smell of blood, double-amputee toddlers, and parents searching for kids in rubble, amid aid restrictions and breakdown of law and order
  • He calls for immediate ceasefire, release of all hostages, and for Israelis to grant international media ‘desperately needed’ access to the territory

NEW YORK CITY: The director of the main UN agency operating in Gaza painted a harrowing picture on Monday of the dire humanitarian situation there, which he said has become even more desperate following an Israeli strike two days ago on a crowded part of the town of Al-Mawasi.

The attack on Saturday killed at least 90 people and injured hundreds, turning the area, close to the Mediterranean coast, into a burnt wasteland littered with charred and mangled bodies.

Speaking in the nearby city of Khan Younis, Scott Anderson, the head of UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, said that following the air strike he visited the local Nasr Hospital, where staff were in chaos and despair, and “overstretched” amid shortages of medical supplies and equipment that continue to compromise their ability to effectively treat patients.

“I witnessed some of the most horrific scenes I’ve seen in the nine months that I’ve been here,” he added.

“The air was filled with the smell of blood and one health worker was mopping up pools of blood on the floor using only water because there aren’t sufficient disinfecting materials or other cleaning supplies to stop the spread of infection.

“There are not enough beds, hygiene supplies, sheeting, mattresses or scrubs, and many patients were treated on the ground or on waiting-room benches without disinfectant. It just puts even treatable injuries at risk of sepsis and much more significant complications.”

He continued: “Ventilator systems were not working due to electrical problems. And as I walked through the hospital and talked to families and children, we saw toddlers who are double amputees; children paralyzed and unable to receive treatment because they don’t have the equipment at the hospital in Khan Younis; and others who were separated from their parents.

“And we also saw mothers and fathers searching frantically within the hospital for their children, unsure if they were alive.”

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled to Al-Mawasi, which is on the western outskirts of Khan Younis, after Israel declared it a safe zone and have been sheltering there.

The attack at the weekend is “just another reminder that nowhere is safe in Gaza and no one is safe in Gaza,” said Anderson.

Echoing comments by all other humanitarian workers since the start of the war, he underscored the need for a complete and permanent ceasefire and for “all parties to the conflict to protect civilians, wherever they are, but especially in UN schools and hospitals.”

Since the war began in October, more than 190 UNRWA facilities have been hit, many of them several times. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by fighting and, highlighting their plight, Anderson said: “Nine out of 10 people in Gaza are displaced. Almost everyone has been forced to flee, over and over, and on average people in Gaza have had to move at least once a month.”

This massive, continuing displacements have not only disrupted lives but robbed families of what little stability and few possessions they had managed to retain, he added.

“The term ‘displacement’ sounds very sterile (and) I don’t think does justice to what people go through when they move,” he said.

“People are often only able to take whatever they can carry. They’re mostly on foot and some are only able to carry their children. Many have lost everything and they need everything.”

What is most frustrating, Anderson added, is that after nine months of war, what people require remains the same as what they needed when the war began.

“It’s very basic,” he said, including food, water, medicine and basic hygiene supplies. Women in particular are in urgent need of hygiene kits and sanitary products, “and we’ve been unable to meet that need over the course of the nine months.”

Five schools, including three UNRWA shelters, have been hit by military strikes in the past week alone, Anderson said, killing dozens of Palestinians and injuring scores. He lamented the obstacles that continue to prevent aid workers from delivering desperately needed humanitarian supplies “in the right quantity and the right quality.”

He added: “Several factors continue to stand in our way (including) restrictions on movement; the safety of humanitarian aid workers; not the right supplies are coming to Gaza; unpredictable working hours; telecommunication challenges; as well as fuel.”

Another factor affecting the free movement of aid is the “complete” breakdown of law and order, which only got worse when the Israeli military operation began in Rafah, Anderson said.

“The truck drivers that we use are being regularly threatened or assaulted,” he revealed. “Tires were shot out on their trucks on Friday. And they become less and less willing, understandably, to move assistance from the border crossings to our warehouses, and then on to people that are in need.

“We have had some challenges with people looting, which really isn’t a surprise. After nine months, people are hungry, people are angry, people are desperate and there aren’t any police to maintain social order.”

Anderson also highlighted the fact that nine months into the war, it is still the case that no international media have been granted access to Gaza, which he said is something that is “desperately needed.”

He added: “The only media, really, are people like myself or others talking to you. (In) most war zones, journalists and media workers perform a very vital function by informing the public about what is happening and they highlight the impact the wars have on innocent civilians.”

He urged Israeli authorities to allow reporters from international media organizations to enter the territory and added that “every effort must be made to protect journalists and media workers, wherever they are in Gaza.”

Anderson concluded by once again underscoring the urgent need for a ceasefire as a “respite for the people of Gaza, the release of hostages so they can return to their families, and a meaningful opportunity for healing to begin.”


Increasingly hard for aid groups to access Gaza: NGOs

Increasingly hard for aid groups to access Gaza: NGOs
Updated 37 min 58 sec ago
Follow

Increasingly hard for aid groups to access Gaza: NGOs

Increasingly hard for aid groups to access Gaza: NGOs
  • Humanitarian organizations said that Israel had facilitated only 53 of the 115 relief missions they had planned
  • Aid groups slammed what it called Israel’s “siege tactics”

PARIS: Access to war-torn Gaza has become increasingly difficult for humanitarian groups, 13 leading NGOs warned on Monday, accusing Israel’s military of blocking much-needed aid from reaching the besieged Palestinian territory.
Denouncing “Israel’s systematic obstruction of aid and its ongoing attacks on aid operations,” the humanitarian organizations said that Israel had facilitated only 53 — less than half — of the 115 relief missions they had planned.
The aid groups slammed what it called Israel’s “siege tactics” in its struggle against Palestinian militant group Hamas.
It said the so-called “humanitarian zone” where most of the strip’s population of 2.4 million people now reside had become “an active combat zone” and “extremely unsafe.”
The charities also criticized the bombing of United Nations schools used as shelters by displaced Palestinians.
At least six schools have been hit over the past nine days.
“These recent events are exacerbating the humanitarian catastrophe at a time when NGOs continue to come up against the obstacles imposed by the continuation of Israeli military operations on the ground,” a press release summarising the 13 NGOs’ views warned.
Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council were among the charities to contribute to the document.
Since Israel began its ground offensive in the far-southern city of Rafah in May, humanitarian workers have faced major difficulties in delivering aid to the Gaza Strip’s south.
Israel’s capture at the beginning of May of the Rafah crossing, which has since been destroyed, brought aid deliveries to a “complete halt,” the NGOs added.
Tonnes of “absolutely necessary aid” were left blocked at the crossing points in the south “due to the deterioration in security conditions,” the statement said.
More than 1,500 trucks of humanitarian aid containing medicines, first-aid kits and basic necessities were stuck in the Egyptian city of Al-Arish as a result.
Meanwhile, in the north of the Gaza Strip — which has been isolated from the south by the Israeli army — aid delivery is “very limited.”
Oxfam said it took it five weeks to transport just 1,600 food parcels from Jordan to Gaza — a journey it said “should take no more than six hours.”
At Kerem Shalom, designated since May as a priority crossing point for humanitarian aid, the situation had “deteriorated significantly since Israel’s offensive in May,” the aid groups said.
This had made the crossing “unsafe to access from within Gaza and currently not logistically viable.”
Israel denies any famine in Gaza and accuses the United Nations of blocking aid deliveries.
“Yesterday, 211 trucks entered Gaza via Kerem Shalom,” Israeli government spokesman David Mencer said on Monday.
In addition, “eight trucks were collected on the Gaza side” of the Erez along with “103 from the Gaza side of Kerem Shalom,” he added.
The war began with Hamas’s October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
The militants seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza including 42 the military says are dead.
Israel responded with a military offensive that has killed at least 38,664 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data provided by the Gaza health ministry.
mli/sbk/gv