LexisNexis

Russian Air Force breaking international humanitarian law by bombing hospitals in Syria

The New York Times’ (NYT) investigation into the bombing of hospitals in Syria since 2015 has concluded that the Russian Air Force have been intentionally and repeatedly targeting civilian infrastructure as part of their military strategy. The NYT reports that there have been 573 documented attacks on medical workers in the country since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, of which roughly half occurred after September 2015 when the Russian Federation intervened in the conflict.

Article 52 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Convention clearly states:

1. Civilian objects shall not be the object of attack or of reprisals. Civilian objects are all objects which are not military objectives as defined in paragraph 2.

2. Attacks shall be limited strictly to military objectives. In so far as objects are concerned, military objectives are limited to those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.

3. In case of doubt whether an object which is normally dedicated to civilian purposes, such as a place of worship, a house or other dwelling or a school, is being used to make an effective contribution to military action, it shall be presumed not to be so used.

The Hague Rules of Air Warfare, Article 24(4) further states that for ‘the bombardment of cities, towns [etc]’ to be legitimate there must be ‘a reasonable presumption that the military concentration is sufficiently important to justify such bombardment, having regard to the danger thus caused to the civilian population’.

Attacking hospitals, as civilian infrastructure, is a war crime. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute condemns to the highest degree the deplorable assault on human life.