- Title: U.N. rights boss denounces air strikes on Aleppo as war crimes
- Date: 21st October 2016
- Summary: GENEVA, SWITZERLAND (OCTOBER 21, 2016) (REUTERS) U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL SESSION ONGOING WITH BROADCAST OF U.N. RIGHTS CHIEF VIDEO MESSAGE
- Embargoed: 5th November 2016 11:17
- Keywords: Syria war crimes Aleppo United Nations Russia Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein International Criminal Court ICC
- Location: GENEVA, SWITZERLAND / NEW YORK, NEW YORK, USA
- City: GENEVA, SWITZERLAND / NEW YORK, NEW YORK, USA
- Country: Switzerland
- Topics: Government/Politics,United Nations
- Reuters ID: LVA00354Y7O7B
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The top United Nations human rights official said on Friday (October 21) that the siege and bombing of eastern Aleppo in Syria constituted "crimes of historic proportions" that have caused heavy civilian casualties amounting to war crimes.
Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein did not specifically name Russia, whose war planes have carried out weeks of air strikes on the rebel-held part of Aleppo along with the Syrian air force, but his reference was clear.
"Armed opposition groups continue to fire mortars and other projectile into civilian neighbourhoods of western Aleppo, but indiscriminate air strikes across the eastern part of the city by Government forces and their allies are responsible for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties, and these violations constitute war crimes, and if knowingly committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against civilians, they constitute crimes against humanity," Zeid said in a speech by video to a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
He called for major powers to put aside their differences and refer the situation in Syria to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Russia has denied any deliberate targeting of civilians and says it is combating terrorists.
Britain, which requested the one-day session along with allies including the United States in order to set up a special inquiry on Aleppo, sought to shame Russia for its air strikes on Aleppo.
"What we have seen in Syrian has been hundreds of thousands, under the pretence of tackling terrorism, civilians killed, including children, and the actions of Assad, and Russia, are driving radicalisation, and fuelling terrorism and not tackling it. Russia, you are making the situation worse, not solving it," Tobias Ellwood, the British government minister for Africa and the Middle East, said in a speech to the Geneva forum.
"Your excellencies, this is shameful. And it is not the action, or the leadership, that we expect from a P5 nation," he said, referring to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
Russian Ambassador Alexey Borodavkin accused Britain and its allies of "trying to save terrorists from being the target of strikes, allowing them to regroup and continue their barbaric acts".
An 11-hour unilateral ceasefire in Aleppo, offered by Russia on Thursday, was "allowing civilians and those fighters who lay down their weapons to leave" the city, Moscow's envoy said.
Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the U.N. commission of inquiry on Syria, said that the panel would continue to document war crimes in Aleppo in an impartial way and urged the government of President Bashar al-Assad to provide information on violations.
Syria's ambassador Hussam Aala accused Western and Gulf countries of launching a "propaganda campaign" against his country and said Syria rejects the "lies and manipulation of the Human Rights Council by Britain and its allies".
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