Statement on the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) Report
Ambassador James Jeffrey
July 8, 2020
The United States welcomes the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria’s July 7 report. The Commission’s report, focusing on the period from November 2019 to June 2020, notes the devastating impacts of Syrian regime and Russian assaults in Idlib province on Syrian civilians, millions of whom were already displaced from their homes by the regime’s reckless and destructive campaign of violence. The report concluded that attacks by pro-regime forces are responsible for 534 of the 582 confirmed civilian casualties that the COI investigated and many instances of mass forced displacement investigated in the reporting period. This is further confirmation of the culpability of the Assad regime and its enablers for the vast majority of atrocities inflicted on the Syrian people, as well as dire ongoing humanitarian conditions, including lack of humanitarian access. Today’s report is an important step to hold the Assad regime and its military allies, Russia and Iran, accountable for their attacks on the Syrian people. Moreover, the findings of the Commission of Inquiry are fully consistent with other recent reports, including the UN Board of Inquiry on Northwest Syria, and the report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Investigation and Identification Team, that document the Assad regime’s atrocities.
The United Nations report states that it has “reasonable grounds to believe that pro-regime forces committed the war crimes of deliberately attacking medical personnel and facilities by conducting airstrikes” as well as “the war crime of launching indiscriminate attacks resulting in death or injury to civilians …” and furthermore “that members of pro-government forces, and in particular the 25th Special Mission Forces Division, committed the war crime of pillage.” This is in addition to the report stating that pro-regime forces likely committed “the war crime of spreading terror among the civilian population.” The report also finds “that there are reasonable grounds to believe that members of HTS committed [various] war crimes.
The report notes that “pro-government forces carried out attacks consistent with clear patterns previously documented by the Commission, affecting markets and medical facilities” and that “attacks on schools have emerged as one of the most vicious patterns in the Syrian conflict.” This report also substantively builds on the Board of Inquiry report the Secretary General released in April which concluded that the Assad regime and its allies were likely responsible for attacks impacting hospitals in northwest Syria that were part of the UN’s deconfliction mechanism to ensure they would not be targeted by violence. We have noted this pattern of attacks elsewhere, as well as the regime’s continued use of chemical weapons, some of which rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity. We deplore and condemn in the strongest terms the continued armed violence and atrocities committed by the regime against its own people, demand that the regime immediately put an end to all attacks against civilians, and that all individuals responsible for atrocities be held to account.
The United States remains committed to a sustained campaign of economic and political pressure to deny the Assad regime revenue and support it uses to wage war and commit mass atrocities against the Syrian people. Only a political resolution of the conflict as called for by UNSCR 2254 can establish an enduring peace to end the suffering of the Syrian people. We also strongly support urgently renewing UN Security Council resolution 2504 (2020), authorizing the UN to undertake life-saving cross-border humanitarian aid deliveries through essential crossing points, which are the lifeline for millions of Syrians still suffering from the atrocities detailed in the Commission’s report.