US-led coalition should address harm to civilians during Syria operations: Human Rights Watch
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US-led coalition should address harm to civilians during Syria operations: Human Rights Watch

The New York-based rights organization reported on Tuesday that the alliance has not thoroughly investigated the attacks that killed civilians or created a program for compensation, or other assistance to civilians who suffered harm from its operations.   It cited field investigations into 4 apparently unlawful coalition airstrikes in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province from 2017 and 2018, where no compensation or condolence payments were made to the victims. The aerial raids reportedly killed 63 civilians and damaged and destroyed property.   Human Rights Watch further highlighted that whilst the US Congress authorized the Defense Department in the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to make condolence payments to civilians in Syria in December 2016, the process for making claims has not been defined.   “The US should promptly develop a standardized condolence payment process and conduct outreach as feasible with affected communities to explain and publicize the process. The process should allow safe and convenient avenues to submit claims in the person’s preferred language and should identify local partners as facilitators.   "Condolence payments should reflect the circumstances, needs, and preferences of affected civilians. Options may include public acknowledgement, apologies, monetary payments, and livelihood assistance,” it said.   The rights organization went on to ask members of the US-led military coalition to coordinate their efforts to create a unified system to track, assess, and investigate reports of civilian casualties and to provide prompt and equitable condolence payments and other forms of amends.   “In cases in which coalition forces are found to have committed laws-of-war violations, appropriate compensation should be swiftly paid to the victims or their families,” Human Rights Watch said.   “For the civilians who suffered under ISIS (Daesh) rule to rebuild their lives, the coalition should include condolence payments to those families who were harmed by their military operations,” Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at the human rights organization said.   “Providing victims of airstrikes with some help for their suffering would be an important step,” Fakih pointed out.   The US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes and operations against what are said to be Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a United Nations mandate.   The military alliance has repeatedly been accused of targeting and killing civilians. It has also been largely incapable of achieving its declared goal of destroying Daesh.   On February 12, the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, in two separate letters addressed to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the former rotating president of the Security Council, Anatolio Ndong Mba, denounced the coalition strikes conducted against Baghouz a day earlier, saying the US-led warplanes had pounded a refugee camp.   Local sources told the state-run Ikhbariyah Syria television news network that 16 civilians, including seven children, were killed as a result of the raid.   “This new crime is in line with the series of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which the US-led coalition has perpetrated against Syrian people, its continued support for terrorism, and its use of terrorists and separatist militia forces to advance its fiendish plots aimed at Syria’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity,” said the letters.   The ministry also called on the UN Security Council to stand up against such attacks and crimes.   It also demanded that the UN body assume its responsibilities regarding the establishment of international peace and security, conduct an international probe into these criminal acts, condemn them, and put an immediate halt to such air raids as well as the “aggressive” presence of American and other foreign military forces in Syria.  

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