Syria: Satellite images from Aleppo raise concerns over risk to civilians
Satellite images collected from Aleppo and the surrounding area released by Amnesty International today show the increased use of heavy weaponry, including near residential areas, and raise urgent concerns over the impending assault on the beleaguered Syrian city. Images from the small nearby town of Anadan reveal more than 600 probable artillery impact craters from heavy fighting between Syrian armed forces and armed opposition groups. "Amnesty International is sending a clear message to both sides in the fighting: Any attacks against civilians will be clearly documented so that those responsible can be held accountable," said Christoph Koettl, emergency response manager for Amnesty International USA. An image from 31 July shows probable artillery impact craters next to what appears to be a residential housing complex in Anadan. Amnesty International is concerned that the deployment of heavy weaponry in residential areas in Aleppo will lead to further human rights abuses and grave breaches of international law. "Turning Syria's most populous city into a battlefield will have devastating consequences for civilians. The atrocities in Syria are mounting already," Koettl said. "The Syrian military and the opposition fighters must both adhere to international humanitarian law, which strictly forbids the use of tactics and weapons that fail to distinguish between military and civilian targets." Amnesty International will continue to monitor the violence in Aleppo, including through the use of satellite images, to document human rights abuses. The Syrian armed forces and members of armed opposition groups such as the Free Syria Army (FSA) may be held criminally responsible if they fail to protect the civilian population caught up in this conflict. As fighting intensifies in populated urban areas, more and more civilians are being exposed to danger, including unlawful killings. Amnesty International continues to call on the United Nations Security Council to refer the deteriorating situation to the International Criminal Court and make clear that the serious crimes under international law committed in Syria are subject to universal jurisdiction. Using this principle, national courts may prosecute crimes committed on other territories, such as war crimes or crimes against humanity.