US failure to accept responsibility for civilian deaths in Syria condemned

By agency reporter
January 14, 2019

Reacting to a statement by the US-led Coalition that it has begun “the process of deliberate withdrawal” from Syria, Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, said: “It is deplorable that the US-led Coalition continues to ignore its responsibility over carrying out meaningful investigations into the hundreds of civilian deaths it caused in Raqqa and elsewhere – even as it starts to withdraw from Syria. 

“The Coalition is unashamedly ignoring the devastating legacy of its bombing campaign, adding insult to injury by making clear that it has no intention of offering survivors any form of remedy or compensation.

“Amnesty has been to Raqqa multiple times since the battle ended. Not a single one of the hundreds of survivors we’ve spoken to on the ground has even been contacted by the Coalition – let alone received any assistance – as they try to rebuild their lives.

“Had the Coalition learned from its mistakes in Iraq, the utter devastation of Raqqa might have been avoided. 

“Leaving such widespread civilian destruction in its wake is a humanitarian abomination that is at odds with the Coalition’s stated values.”

The US withdrawal – the timeline and details of which remain unknown – is unlikely to stop the US-led Coalition’s airstrikes in Syria putting more civilian lives at risk.

In partnership with Airwars, Amnesty is carrying out a major investigation into the shocking scale of civilian casualties resulting from four months of US, UK and French aerial bombardment of the city of Raqqa to oust ISIS. This investigation includes an innovative crowdsourcing data project involving thousands of digital activists. The results will be made public in April.

Amnesty’s on-the-ground investigation since the battle for Raqqa ended in October 2017 has already produced compelling evidence of prima facie international humanitarian law violations by the US-led Coalition. Despite Coalition officials and politicians – including the UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson – initially dismissing the findings, the Coalition later revised its civilian death toll statistics upwards from 23 to more than 100 – a 300 per cent increase – in light of Amnesty’s research. 

However, in a letter to Amnesty last September, the US Department of Defence - whose forces carried out most of the airstrikes and all the artillery strikes on Raqqa - said it accepts no liability for the hundreds of civilian casualties it caused. The Coalition does not plan to compensate survivors and relatives of those killed in Raqqa, and refuses to provide further information about the circumstances behind the strikes.

* More information on the crowdsourcing data project to map Raqqa airstrikes here

* Airwars monitors and assesses civilian harm from airpower-dominated international military actions, seeks transparency and accountability from belligerents, and advocates on behalf of affected non-combatants. https://airwars.org/

* Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org.uk/

[Ekk/6]

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