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Saturday 13 July 2019

Sanction Putin’s officers. Ground Assad. It CAN be done.

Image from Channel 4 News report on Syrians fleeing the front lines.

Since late April, Russian and Assad regime forces have been relentlessly bombing civilians in northwestern Syria, in Idlib and northern Hama provinces.

From the start, the Russian and Assad regime escalation singled out hospitals as targets for bombing, along with Syria Civil Defence rescue centres, schools, water facilities, bakeries, markets, and agricultural crops.

The UK Government has adopted a line in recent years of saying that it has little leverage. But the UK does have the power to act.

  • Call for the UK to draw a red line on hospital attacks and other attacks on civilian targets.
  • Call for the UK to respond to hospital bombings as it does to chemical attacks.
  • Call for the UK to sanction Putin’s officers with command responsibility for crimes in Syria.
  • Call for the UK to ground Assad’s air force—responsible for both chemical attacks and hospital bombings.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights reports 606 civilians killed by Russian and Assad regime forces from 26 April to 12 July 2019, including 157 children.

From the start, the Russian and Assad regime escalation singled out hospitals and Syria Civil Defence rescue centres as targets.

The Syrian Archive has posted open source investigations into two hospital bombings in particular, the 5 May 2019 bombing of Nabed Al Hayat Hospital in Hass Town in Idlib, and the bombing of Kafranbel surgical hospital the same day.

These reports are a small sample from a campaign which has seen at least 32 medical facilities bombed from 28 April to 10 July 2019, according to UOSSM, the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations.

In recent days, Channel 4 News has broadcast evidence of an apparently deliberately targeted attack on White Helmets rescuers as they were trying to save lives.

Channel 4 has also broadcast reporting on the Assad regime’s targeting of farmers and deliberate destruction of crops.

Why do Assad and Putin target hospitals, rescue workers, and even farmers? The answer is that these attacks are part of the same strategy as the chemical attacks and starvation sieges seen earlier in Assad’s war on Syria’s civilians. The aim is to make life unliveable in areas outside regime control, to force the population to either submit or flee.

And hundreds of thousands have fled, sheltering as close to the Turkish border as they can. An unknown number succeed in crossing the border, despite Turkey’s wall and armed patrols. UN OCHA reports 330,000 people internally displaced in these last two and a half months.

Once again, a report from Channel 4 News gives a clear picture of the situation amongst Syrians who have fled to the border.

Despite all the evidence, there are no EU or UK sanctions for Russian crimes in Syria. But the UK has the means to gather evidence of Russian attacks, and to identify officers in the chain of command. And the UK has the means to impose its own sanctions even if other EU states won’t agree.

UK action on chemical weapons shows that the UK can deter crimes by the Assad regime, Now the UK also needs to set a red line on hospital attacks and other attacks on civilian targets.

We saw the cost of failing to act in 2012 and 2013. UK leaders now again have a choice: allow this suffering to go on, once again escalating the refugee crisis, or act at last to protect civilians.

Sanction Putin’s officers.

Ground Assad.

It CAN be done.

Thursday 11 July 2019

Thank you!

We would like to thank everyone who came to our Freedom Across Borders conference on Saturday 6 July, and who helped make it such a success—all who came to talk, to listen, to discuss and share.

We are turning now to editing videos and preparing transcripts, and then to working on a book of the conference, and looking at how else to take these strands of work further.

And we look forward to updating you as we publish the results on the Freedom Across Borders website in the coming weeks and months.