Russian Strikes can amount to war crimes: Amnesty International

Russia has been accused of using “cluster munitions and unguided bombs” on civilian areas in Syria in strikes that a human rights watchdog says have killed hundreds of people in past few months.

An Amnesty International report targets six attacks by Russia on Homs, Idlib and Aleppo areas which “may amount to war crimes”. The report states that after Moscow formally joined the conflict since Sept. 30, there has been an increase in reports of cluster munitions dropped in the strikes conducted by Russian forces. Cluster munitions are aimless and haphazard in structure and character and also leave unexploded bombs on the ground which have often killed and maimed innocent civilians after the hostilities have been ceased.

The UK-based human rights institution stated that it conducted a research on 25 attacks between September and November 2015, in which minimum 200 civilians were killed.

Russia joined Syria’s four-year civil war on the side of its long-time aide, President Bashar al-Assad, rebuffed its troops had attacked civilians in opposition-held territories, stating that they were focused on terrorist spots.

However, Syrian civilians and activists in territories held by the opposition fighting Mr Assad have been sending reports and videos for weeks of civilian targets which they claim were struck by Russian forces.

These have also struck on the territory where humanitarian aid convoys gather in the northern border town of Azaz in Syria. Amnesty’s report was scrutinized remotely using interviews photographs and video clips with witnesses and human rights activists in Syria.

The case of the Omar Bin al-Khattab mosque in the northern city of Jisr al-Shughur was probed by the Amnesty international. Syrian activists implicated Russia of hitting it and killing one young man and wounding several others, including three women and a child.

Russia said that the reports was a bluff, and exhibited satellite images demonstrated the mosque intact.

But the rights group said that the images exposed a different mosque, not the one targeted. “Such conduct does not cultivate confidence in their willingness to investigate reported violations in good faith,” Amnesty’s Mr Luther said.

“Russia’s ministry of defence must be more transparent and disclose targets of their attacks in order to facilitate assessment of whether they are complying with their obligations under the International humanitarian law.”

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