Both sides fighting in Aleppo may be held criminally accountable for their failures to protect the civilian population, says Amnesty International as the organisation released new satellite images showing the extent of heavy weapon use in the city.
The satellite images - from Aleppo and the surrounding area - show an increased use of heavy weaponry, including near residential areas. Amnesty said they raise urgent concerns over the assault on the beleaguered Syrian city. (The images can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/AleppoSatelliteImages ).
Some of the images reveal more than 600 probable artillery impact craters from heavy fighting between Syrian armed forces and armed opposition groups in the nearby town of Anadan. An image from 31 July shows probable artillery impact craters next to what appears to be a residential housing complex in Anadan.
Amnesty is concerned that the deployment of heavy weaponry in residential areas in and around Aleppo will lead to further human rights abuses and grave breaches of international law.
The Syrian armed forces and members of armed opposition groups such as the Free Syria Army may be held criminally responsible if they fail to protect the civilian population caught up in this conflict. As fighting intensifies in populated urban areas, more and more civilians are being exposed to danger, including unlawful killings, warned Amnesty.
Amnesty International USA Emergency Response Manager Christoph Koettl said: “Amnesty International is sending a clear message to both sides in the fighting: any attacks against civilians will be clearly documented so that those responsible can be held accountable.
“Turning Syria’s most populous city into a battlefield will have devastating consequences for civilians. The atrocities in Syria are mounting already.
“The Syrian military and the opposition fighters must both adhere to international humanitarian law, which strictly forbids the use of tactics and weapons that fail to distinguish between military and civilian targets.”
Amnesty says it will continue to monitor the violence in Aleppo - including through the use of satellite images - to document human rights abuses.
Meanwhile, the organisation has called on the United Nations Security Council to refer the deteriorating situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court and make clear that the serious crimes under international law committed in the country are subject to universal jurisdiction. Using this principle, national courts may prosecute serious crimes such as war crimes or crimes against humanity committed on other territories.