The Syrian Coalition has renewed calls to refer the crimes of the Assad regime and its allies to the International Criminal Court to ensure that those responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes are held accountable.
In a press release issued on Thursday following fresh chemical attacks by regime forces in Damascus and rural Hama, the Coalition called for the initiating of judicial proceedings based on the mechanism adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 21, 2016 calling for prosecuting the most serious crimes committed in Syria since March 2011.
The Assad regime’s air force bombed the town of Latamina and the Zwar area in northern rural of Hama with missiles loaded with toxic substances on Thursday. A similar attack targeted the district of Qaboun in eastern Damascus on Wednesday.
The attacks caused dozens of cases of asphyxiation among civilians, with victims showing symptoms that included frothing at the mouth, pinpoint pupils, shortness of breath, burning eyes, and general weakness. According to a doctor who treated some of the victims, the symptoms were most likely due to the use of organic phosphorus.
“The Assad regime once again uses toxic gas in the bombardment of civilian areas in a blatant violation of the Geneva Protocol and UN Security Council resolutions 2118, 2209, 2235, and 2254,” the Coalition said.
“The recurrence of these crimes and violations as well as lack of appropriate response make key parties in the UN Security Council and the international community partners in these crimes and violations.” (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The Syrian Coalition said that Russia, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council responsible for maintaining international peace and security, is obliged to respect the will of the Syrian people and their right to freedom and self-determination.
In a press release issued on Thursday, the Coalition called on Russia to stop supporting the tyrannical regime and end its blatant intervention in Syria. It added that Russia has been an accomplice to the Assad regime in its crimes.
The Russian air force has committed yet a new barbarous crime when Russian jets bombed the town of Deir Sharqi east of the town of Maaret Alnouman in rural Idlib on Wednesday. Dozens of civilians, mostly internally displaced people, were killed and wounded in the airstrikes.
The airstrikes, which used cluster bombs, targeted civilians waiting in line at a bakery to buy bread. They also reportedly caused damage to the shrine of Omar bin Abdul Aziz.
The Syrian Coalition condemned this crime of deliberately targeting civilians as it reiterated its condemnation of the continued violations of the truce by the Russian forces. According to the terms of the ceasefire agreement, Russia, a guarantor of the agreement, pledged to force the Assad regime and its Iranian ally to respect the agreement.
“However, Russia’s actions in Syria only facilitated the continuation of massacres, mass forced displacement of civilians, and impunity for criminals. Russia’s actions provide cover for violations and crimes against international law as well as demonstrate Russia is unwilling to play a positive role to bolster the ceasefire agreement and help reach a political solution in Syria,” the Coalition said. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The Syrian Coalition organized a panel discussion on the challenges facing the health sector in the liberated areas in light of the continued targeting of health facilities by the Assad regime and its allies.
The panel discussion was organized in cooperation with the Syrian Interim Government and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Istanbul on Wednesday. The NDI is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that works with partners in developing countries to increase the effectiveness of democratic institutions.
The panel discussion was divided into two sessions. In the first session, the conferees discussed ways to improve the health sector and the reality of the situation regarding hospitals, health centers, field hospitals, physiotherapy centers, pharmacies, and medical equipment.
The session also included a discussion of the pharmaceutical industry, the problem of smuggled medicine, ways to control prices of medicine, shortages of essential medications, vaccination campaigns, as well as ways to impose oversight on the work of hospitals and organizations working in the health sector in the liberated areas.
Moreover, tabled for discussion in the first session were ways to provide qualified medical staff, primarily doctors, nurses, and pharmacists as well as ways to improve medical education.
The second session, which was dedicated to discussing the relationship between the government and medical organizations, focused on discussing the needs of the interim government and medical organizations operating in the liberated areas. The session stressed the need for greater coordination between the interim government and these organizations.
Secretary-General of the Syrian Coalition Abdel-Ilah Fahd suggested dedicating the panel discussion to Doctor Ali Darwish who was killed while he was helping victims of a chlorine attack by regime forces on the town of Lataminah in northern rural Hama last week. Conferees paid tribute to Darwish and all medical workers who lost their lives to help victims of the Assad regime’s war machine.
Mohamed Firas Jundi, Minister of Health in the Syrian interim government, said that the Assad regime and its allies systematically and deliberately target health facilities in the liberated areas. Jundi noted that other problems facing the medical sector in the liberated areas include the fact that a large number of medical organizations are operating irregularly, the lack of centers to train and qualify medical workers, shortages of specialized doctors, and the severe shortage of medicines.
Dr. Wajih Jumaa said that the provision of basic health services is crucial to enable the civilian population to stay in their homes, enable the interim government to claim legitimacy, and to help restore stability in the liberated areas.
The Coalition will also hold two more panel discussions as part of the "Formulation of Participatory Public Policies" project in the Turkish city of Gaziantep and in the areas liberated from ISIS as part of Operation Euphrates Shield. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
Secretary-General of the Syrian Coalition Abdel-Ilah Fahad appealed to friendly and sisterly countries to step up support for the Syrian interim government to enable it meet the urgent needs of the people who were displaced from Alwaer district and are arriving in northern rural Aleppo.
Fahd said that Russia and Iran bear direct responsibility for the forced displacement of the local population of Alwaer district, stressing that Russia’s actions in Syria contradict its role as guarantor of the cease-fire agreement.
Fahad underscored that the mass forced displacement aimed at bringing out demographic change in Syria amounts to "war crimes," adding that such tactics are a clear violation of the cease-fire agreement signed in Ankara on December 29, 2016.
The ceasefire agreement called for parties to the conflict not to try to seize new territory, allow unhindered humanitarian access to the besieged areas and complete the cessation of hostilities.
On Tuesday, the second batch of civilians displaced from Alwaer, comprising around 393 families, departed from the besieged district to the town of Jarablus in northern rural Aleppo. The first batch left on March 18 and arrived two days later at a camp erected near Jarablus.
The mass forced displacement of residents of Alwaer followed a violent military campaign by regime forces that began in early February and continued until early March. Hundreds of civilians were killed and injured in the most violent airstrikes on the district since the outbreak of the revolution in March 2011. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The Syrian Coalition renewed its outright rejection and condemnation of any plan aimed at forcibly displacing civilians anywhere in Syria as an act of violation of international humanitarian law and UN Security Council resolutions and one which constitutes a crime against humanity. It stressed that it is incumbent upon the international community to take urgent action to put an end to this crime.
In a press release issued on Wednesday, the Coalition said: “No one will be able to legitimize the tactics the Assad regime uses to force civilians out of their homes and change the demographic landscape in many areas across Syria. The Assad regime exploits the shameful international silence to carry on with these tactics, which are being planned by Iran and backed by Russia.”
Any attempt to force civilians out of their homes, including the so-called Kafriya-Alfoua Agreement reached recently, is a participation in the demographic change tactics as such attempts serve the Iranian regime's plans to seize control of populated areas and change their social and demographic identity, the Coalition stressed.
The Coalition went on to say that Iran’s insistence on exclusively negotiating the terms of the agreement with Al-Qaeda reveals its plans to associate the revolution with terrorism.
“Plans by the Assad regime and its allies, among other things, are clearly aimed at sabotaging the political process and ensuring the survival of the Assad regime at the expense of the future of Syria and its people. These policies risk fueling long-term conflicts serving international agendas and interests.”
The Syrian Coalition renewed call upon the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution under Chapter IIV of the UN Charter demanding an end to all forms of killing, besiegement, and forced mass displacement. Such a resolution is also needed to ensure commitment by all parties to the ceasefire, the withdrawal of foreign militias from Syria, and forcing the Assad regime to commit to its undertakings concerning a political solution in Syria. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The Syrian Coalition said that the liberation of Raqqa from ISIS must be carried out by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), stressing that repressive practices by the militia of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) mean the group should not take part in the liberation of the city.
Member of the Coalition’s political committee Yasser Farhan cited the FSA’s restoration of security to areas liberated from the ISIS extremist group in northern rural Aleppo as part of Operation Shield of the Euphrates. Tens of thousands of displaced people were able to return to their homes in the area as a result, Farhan added.
Militias of the PYD have committed violations and war crimes in their previous military operations in northern Syria, including murder, mass arbitrary arrests, looting, arson of houses and shops, and the displacement of Syrians of various components of society.
Farhan criticized the US support for the PYD militias. "US forces intervened in Manbij to maintain the presence of the PYD elements in the town, while remained silent on the crimes of forced displacement in many Syrian towns and villages, most recently in the district of Waer in Homs."
"Washington is imposing a de facto no-fly zone in the areas under the control of the PYD militias unlike on the rebel-held areas which are subjected to constant bombardment by the Assad regime’s air force which uses barrel bombs, cluster bombs, napalm, chlorine gas, and sarin in the shelling of these areas,” Farhan added.
Farhan pointed out that the PYD militias continue to commit war crimes by giving the US-led coalition forces wrong coordinates to bomb populated areas thus forcing the local populations to flee their homes.
Farhan concluded his remarks by stressing that tyranny and terrorism reinforce each other. Terrorism in Syria will be eliminated only when Syrians can have decent living conditions and freedom and dignity which they have been demanding since the start of the revolution. This requires the departure of Assad in order for stability and peace in Syria and the region to be restored. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The Syrian opposition has reiterated its rejection of giving Bashar Al-Assad and his clique any role to play in the transitional period, calling on the United Nations to designate more than 60 Iranian-backed militias fighting alongside the Assad regime as terrorist groups.
Nasr Hariri, head of the delegation of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) to Geneva talks, said: "We will not accept, totally, we will not accept any presence, any shape of presence of Bashar al-Assad, from the beginning of that transitional period and in the future of Syria."
Speaking at a press conference on Monday following a meeting with Deputy Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Syria Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, Hariri stressed that the ouster of Bashar Assad is the first step of political transition in Syria.
"Today, we continued to discuss the political period and a constitutional declaration that will be in effect in the transition period," Hariri added.
Hariri went on: "We reiterated it at the beginning of the talks, the core of the political process is the requirement of the political transition, which is the transition from the regime. It requires Bashar Assad and his group, whose hands have already been stained with the blood of the Syrian people, to step down immediately as the premise of the transition. Meanwhile, they must be punished for their crimes.”
HNC member Colonel Fateh Colonel Fateh Hassoun said that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been recruiting tens of thousands of mercenaries from the so-called Quds Force and Shiite militias from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and sent them to fight alongside the Assad regime.
Hassoun pointed out that these militias are usually sent to Syria after undergoing training in more than 14 training centers in Iran. He added that the IRGC has established more than 20 command and control centers in Syria, including in the districts of Saieda Zeinab and Yarmouk in Damascus as well in the district of Sheikh Najjar in Aleppo.
These mercenary groups have committed many massacres and war crimes fighting alongside regime forces on all Syrian territory, Hassoun said. He called upon the international community to designate these militias as terrorist organizations. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The Syrian opposition delegation to the Geneva talks denounced Bashar Al-Assad’s "killing machine," saying that 15 civilians were killed and 70 more wounded in airstrikes on a public market in the town of Hammouriya in Rural Damascus on Saturday.
Nasr Hariri, lead negotiator of the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), said after meeting the UN envoy on Saturday that terror in Syria is represented by the Assad regime, militias of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, ISIS, and Al-Qaeda.
"I am talking about the killing machine and terror machine of the Assad regime," Hariri said, reading the names of victims of the "massacre" to reporters in Geneva.
Hariri also accused the Assad regime of the forced displacement of civilians and imposing "demographic change" in the country.
"Any political solution would not be meaningful or credible if it was not accompanied with a real ceasefire on the ground," Hariri said. "If we don't have that real ceasefire then things will deteriorate very badly."
Activist in eastern Ghouta said that at least 18 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed and dozens more injured in airstrikes in the town of Hammouriya on Saturday. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The Syrian opposition's High Negotiations Committee (HNC) discussed in detail the question of a transitional governing body during their first meeting with the UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, head of the HNC delegation Nasr Hariri in Geneva said on Friday.
"We have concluded fruitful discussions with Mr. Staffan de Mistura. We proceeded from the progress, achieved at the end of the previous round especially on the issue of political transition. We elaborated more on the transitional governing body and its structure as well as on all transitional institutions, related to the governing body during the transitional period," Hariri told reporters.
The HNC handed to de Mistura a report on the humanitarian situation in Syria. At least 586 people had been killed across Syria between the two rounds of negotiations. Regime forces and their allies targeted at least nine schools, several medical facilities, and five public markets. The Assad regime arbitrarily arrested 647 people, including 24 children and 43 women, Hariri said.
"We are here to rid our country of terrorism. However, in order to liberate the country from ISIS, we should first free it from the state terrorism being practiced by the Assad regime," Hariri stressed.
The HNC’s chief negotiator Mohamed Sabra said that the HNC delegation handed to the UN envoy a paper outlining the opposition's vision for the transitional governing body. The paper demanded that powers to be exercised by the body should include the powers of the president and the government, including authority over the army and security apparatus. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Al-Arabiya)
Nasr Hariri, head of the delegation of the opposition’ High Negotiations Committee (HNC), said that the Syrian opposition will continue to insist on discussing political transition in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 2254 and the Geneva Communique of 2012.
Speaking at a press conference in Geneva on Thursday following a meeting with Deputy of the UN envoy Ramzy Ramzy, Hariri said the talks in Geneva must focus now on political transition and all the aspects related to it. He stressed that the UNSCR 2254 clearly called on parties to the conflict to commit to the Geneva Communiqué of 2012.
The HNC’s delegation is seeking to push the political process forward, Hariri said. He added that UNSCR 2254 talks about the entire transitional period and all the topics that the HNC wants to discuss.
Hariri pointed out that the meeting with Ramzy included long conversations on the political transition, adding that the subject is included on the agenda to be discussed in detail with de Mistura on Friday. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)