In an interview with Fox News following the Helsinki Summit on 16 July, Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasised the high civilian death toll from the US-led Coalition’s aerial bombardment of Raqqa, Syria.
Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director Lynn Maalouf responded:
“The US-led Coalition should absolutely face heightened scrutiny for its conduct in last year’s four-month Raqqa offensive. Our field investigations in the bombed-out city revealed hundreds of civilians were killed and thousands injured in the battle to oust the armed group calling itself Islamic State. The Coalition must own up to its record on civilian casualties and pave the way for meaningful investigations and reparations – unless it learns from its mistakes, it will be doomed to repeat them.
“But it’s beyond cynical for President Putin to use civilian deaths in Raqqa to deflect attention from Russia’s own role in horrific violations contributing to the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians and the displacement of millions during Syria’s war.
“Amnesty International has repeatedly documented both Russian and Syrian forces committing widespread and egregious violations of international humanitarian law, many amounting to war crimes, including bombing hospitals and using internationally banned cluster munitions. And, of course, Russia has been instrumental in obstructing accountability for such crimes and in hampering independent investigations into chemical weapons attacks.
“President Putin’s deflections will do nothing to save lives in Syria. What could prevent more civilian bloodshed is for Russian forces and authorities to abide by the rules of war, ensure humanitarian access to civilians in need, and stop hampering international efforts to investigate and prosecute crimes under international law.”