Thursday 15 November 2018

Syrian group documents ‘Russian attacks on civilians’

Syrian Archive has created a database of more than 3,000 verified videos of the incidents.

A Russian combat fighter bomber Su-34 unloads its bombs over a target in Syria (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service photo via AP, File)
A Russian combat fighter bomber Su-34 unloads its bombs over a target in Syria (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service photo via AP, File)

By Associated Press Reporter

A Syrian-led human rights group says it has documented more than 1,400 incidents in which Russian forces indiscriminately targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure in the three years since Moscow intervened in the Syrian civil war.

The Berlin-based Syrian Archive has created a database of more than 3,000 verified videos of the incidents, reported between September 2015, when Russia began its air strikes on behalf of President Bashar Assad’s forces, and September 2018.

Hadi al-Khatib of the group said the searchable database is the first visual documentation of alleged Russian air strikes in Syria and is essential for “advancing justice”.

The database, which includes more than 700 incidents in which civilian casualties were reported and some 35 hospitals were struck, can help lawyers build cases against perpetrators of violence, he said.

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A destroyed ambulance is seen outside the Syrian Civil Defence main centre after air strikes in Ansari neighbourhood in Aleppo (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP, File)

The database includes videos from citizens, journalists, humanitarian groups and even the Russian Defence Ministry.

Russia denies targeting civilians and has often said the air strikes are aimed at “terrorist infrastructure”.

In a recent report on its three-year involvement in Syria, the Russian military lists the number of air strikes and the types of aircraft and weapons used, but does not say anything about casualties.

Syrian Archive said it has documented and verified at least 704 incidents in which there were civilian casualties as a result of alleged Russian attacks. The verified videos show that at least 35 hospitals, 27 mosques, 23 schools and 27 markets were struck in Russian air strikes, it said.

In one incident, Russia’s Defence Ministry released a video identifying a target as an oil refinery, which upon further investigation turned out to be a water treatment facility, according to the report and other investigations.

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A lineup of Russian troops is held before withdrawal at Hemeimeem air base in Syria (Vadim Grishankin/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, file)

The group also identified 63 incidents in which cluster munitions were used and 39 incidents in which incendiary weapons were used. Russia denies using those weapons.

“The whole point of the report is to advance justice,” Mr al-Khatib said. “Lawyers can use this kind of data, corroborate them with other evidence, to build their cases.”

Syrian Archive has been working to document and preserve the history of the civil war, uploaded mostly on YouTube.

As the tech giant introduced new technology to rein in violent content on the internet, hundreds of thousands of videos from the conflict suddenly disappeared. Syrian Archive worked with YouTube to retrieve some of the videos and ensure that violent videos were marked for graphic content.

Press Association

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