Sending Office: Honorable Tom Malinowski
We are writing to ask that you sign on to our letter below to the US mission to the UN—urging action and attention on Syrian and Russian war crimes in Syria. The continuing onslaught, relentless bombardments, and deliberate targeting of civilian targets
in Idlib province are on track to result in the worst humanitarian disaster of the 21st century.
Closing tonight so as to go out in time for UNGA’s work week.
USUN has been a key leader—supporting the UN and other countries’ efforts to hold accountable the Assad regime, Russia, and Iran for their horrendous crimes in Syria. We are writing to express our support for these efforts, to urge that the UN’s inquiries
and investigations be made public, and to urge USUN/DOS to support other countries’ accountability efforts.
In addition, our letter provides an illustrative list of airstrikes and artillery bombardments that could constitute war crimes–demonstrating that the meticulous record-keeping by the UN’s mechanism and other efforts will provide a robust basis for future
prosecutions for these war crimes. In so doing, we hope to shape the decision-making calculus of Syrian and Russian officers as they ramp up their assault on Idlib province.
Tom Malinowski Adam Kinzinger
October 1, 2019
The Honorable Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C St NW
Washington, DC 20520
The Honorable Kelly Craft
United States Mission to the United Nations
799 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017
Dear Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador Craft,
We are writing today with grave concern over the continued atrocities and war crimes committed against the people of Syria by Bashar al-Assad, with the assistance of Russian and Iranian forces. We first thank you for the strong support you have expressed for
the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism, the United Nations body tasked to document the atrocities of the Syrian conflict for future accountability, as well as the Secretary General’s Board of Inquiry. In addition, we thank you for your continued
strong leadership of the United States mission in pushing for a UNSC referral to the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Syria. We now write to urge you to build on the United Nations General Assembly high-level week to continue raising these atrocities
in your engagements and to exert political support for the United Nations’ continued investigations and actions to address this tragedy.
Since 2011, the government of Syria has resorted to a pattern of increasingly systematic and widespread use of indiscriminate bombing and targeting of civilians as a means of retaking territory and subjecting it to the control of Assad’s forces. It has been
widely reported these crimes have been committed with the assistance of Iran and Russia. Following the barrel-bombing of Aleppo, Assad has now turned to the same methods for the assault on the northwestern province of Idlib. This last anti-government stronghold,
which holds over three million civilians, has been subjected to indiscriminate violence against civilian targets and forced displacement.
Over the course of the assault on Idlib, airstrikes and artillery bombardments have repeatedly struck hospitals, ambulances, schools, and other civilian targets that are protected under international law. The frequency with which airstrikes have hit targets
on no-strike lists provided by the United Nations even prompted the Secretary General to recently establish a Board of Inquiry to investigate the particularly egregious spate of attacks since September 2018. The UN Commission of Inquiry previously found that
these attacks may amount to the war crime of deliberately attacking protected objects, including medical personnel.
According to the UN, recent airstrikes and ground attacks have killed over 1,000 civilians, including at least 300 children. In addition, the relentless airstrikes, artillery bombardments, and resultant malnourishment and humanitarian crises have resulted in
the displacement of over half a million Syrian civilians in Idlib province. The deliberate attacks on civilians, protected objects, and medical personnel, as well as the forced displacement of civilians, are war crimes and may constitute crimes against humanity.
We have outlined below a number of recent crimes as potential targets for indictment under a regional or international accountability mechanism:
- 29 July 2019: An airstrike killed 4 and injured 20 civilians in a marketplace in Ma’rrat al-Nu’man, Idlib. A Yak-130 from Hama Military Airbase flown by a pilot with the call sign “Baz” was observed in the area at the time.
- 21 August 2019: An airstrike disabled Al-Rahma Hospital in Telamnas, Idlib. A Su-22 from T4 Airbase flown by a pilot with the call sign “Akram” was observed in the area at the time.
- 28 August 2019: An airstrike killed 13 and injured 34 civilians in Ma’rrat al-Nu’man, Idlib. A Su-24 from Sin Airbase flown by a pilot with the call sign “Naseem” was observed in the area at the time.
- 2018-2019: Repeated heavy artillery bombardment directed against civilian targets as part of the assault on Idlib province, including a chlorine attack (attacks on Qalaat al-Mudiq, Kafr Naboudeh, Hobait, Arbain, Zakah, Kafr Zita, and Khan Sheikhoun). Artillery
strikes were conducted by the Tiger Forces, a Russia-assisted unit of the Assad government’s military. Key Tiger Forces leaders implicated in artillery bombardments likely constituting war crimes include Russian-assisted 5th Corps Commander Major
General Zaid Salah, Tiger Forces Commander Brigadier General Suheil al-Hassan, Tiger Forces Operations Commander Colonel Yunis Mohammed, Tiger Forces Artillery Commander Lieutenant Colonel Derid Awoud, 4th Division senior commander Munzer al Salim,
42nd Brigade of the 4th Division Commander Ghaith Dalla.
In light of these reported crimes, we request that the United States Mission to the United Nations prioritize the following steps:
- Raise the United States’ deep concern regarding these war crimes and continue to publicly and privately urge support for the IIIM and the UNSG’s Board of Inquiry.
- Continue pressing the Secretary General for a commitment to make public the findings of his Board of Inquiry on war crimes and to include a specific section on attribution in any such reports.
- Continue to express publicly that the United States will support the ongoing work of the war crimes units in our partner nations in pursuing structural investigations, holding accountability proceedings, and shedding light on abuses committed by the Assad
regime and its collaborators.
If the current escalation by government-aligned forces is not slowed, the United Nations assesses that the suffering in Idlib province will likely devolve into the worst humanitarian disaster in the 21st century. Thus, your urgent and timely attention
to these matters is of the utmost importance. We thank you for your service to our country and look forward to your response.
Tom Malinowski Adam Kinzinger
Member of Congress Member of Congress
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