The UN Human Rights Council agreed on Friday to launch an “independent special inquiry” into the situation in Aleppo, where the top UN rights official said air strikes constituted war crimes.
The 47-member state Geneva forum adopted a resolution, submitted by the UK along with Western and Arab allies, by a vote of 24 states in favor, 7 against with 16 abstentions. Russia, China, Algeria, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Burundi voted against the resolution.
The Council asked the existing UN commission of inquiry on Syria to “conduct a comprehensive independent special inquiry into the events in Aleppo” to identify those responsible for violations and to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the siege and aerial bombing of Aleppo constituted “crimes of historic proportions” that have caused heavy civilian casualties amounting to war crimes.
In the resolution, the Council urged the immediate implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement, and demanded that the regime and its allies put an immediate end to all aerial bombardment and military flights over Aleppo city.
The Council also demanded that all parties, in particular the Assad regime and its supporters, promptly allow rapid, safe, unhindered and sustained humanitarian access, including across conflict lines and borders.
Hussein stressed that “indiscriminate air strikes across the eastern part of the city by Assad regime forces and their allies are responsible for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties.” He said that Aleppo “is today a slaughterhouse – a gruesome locus of pain and fear.”
The UN human rights chief told the Geneva-based Council that hospitals, schools, marketplaces, water facilities and neighborhood bakeries have been deliberately and repeatedly attacked and millions have been denied life-saving aid.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights said that around 414 people have been killed by Russian and Assad regime airstrikes on the besieged neighborhoods of Aleppo in the past month. The Russian attacks accounted for 338 of the victims, who included 104 children and 54 women. Attacks by the Assad regime forces were responsible for the death of 76 civilians, including 14 children and 9 women, according to a report by the rights group released on Thursday.
The Network pointed out that it has documented six attacks in which incendiary weapons were used by the Russian forces, adding that Assad regime helicopters dropped at least 15 barrel bombs on the besieged neighborhoods of Aleppo in the same period.
The Russian forces have committed 16 massacres in the past month and launched 30 attacks on vital civilian centers, the report added. The Assad regime forces have carried out three massacres and bombed four assault vital civilian facilities.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Coalition and the Free Syrian Army said that it is time for the United Nations to make “a thorough and real reconsideration of its positions and performance on Syria after the election of a new secretary-general.”
In a joint statement released on Friday, the Coalition and the FSA said that the “UN has been treating the executioner and the victim as equals, and its positions on Syria has helped the Assad regime and the Iranian-backed terrorist militia to execute their plans and provided a cover for Russia’s war crimes for which there has been so far no condemnation.”
The statement stressed that the UN has a responsibility of to stop the serious military escalation by Russia in Aleppo as well as other parts of Syria and its use of internationally banned weapons, including bunker-buster bombs, napalm, incendiary bombs, and chemical weapons. “Crimes of genocide and war crimes against Syrian women and children must no longer be tolerated and its perpetrators must be punished.” (Source: Syrian Coalition)