Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic; Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic has submitted the present report to the Human Rights Council pursuant to Council resolutions 31/17 and S-25/1.

The battle for control over Aleppo city was a stage of unrelenting violence, with civilians on both sides falling victim to war crimes committed by all parties. As part of a strategy to force surrender, pro-Government forces encircled eastern Aleppo city in late July and trapped civilians without adequate food or medical supplies. Between July and December 2016, Syrian and Russian forces carried out daily air strikes, claiming hundreds of lives and reducing hospitals, schools and markets to rubble. Syrian forces also used chlorine bombs in residential areas, resulting in hundreds of civilian casualties.

Armed groups persistently shelled civilians in western Aleppo city. Using improvised weapons, these groups often fired indiscriminately in attacks that killed and injured dozens, including women and children. When launched without a clear military target, these attacks intentionally terrorized the civilian population. As the situation deteriorated in eastern Aleppo and people tried desperately to flee, some armed groups violently prevented them and used them as human shields.

In a particularly egregious attack, Syrian air forces targeted a humanitarian aid convoy in Aleppo countryside, killing more than a dozen aid workers and destroying vital supplies for civilians in need. The convoy had been authorized by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, which was aware of its location at the time of attack. The attack led to the suspension of aid convoys throughout the Syrian Arab Republic, depriving civilians from access to essential goods.

As pro-Government forces recaptured eastern Aleppo city in December, some executed hors de combat fighters and perceived armed group supporters. Hundreds of men and boys were separated from their families and forcibly conscripted by the Syrian army. The fate of others remains unknown.

The evacuation of eastern Aleppo city, amounting to forced displacement, leaves thousands of civilians in a perilous situation. While many civilians were permitted to move to western Aleppo, others were transported to Idlib, where they lack adequate living conditions and fear future attacks as warring parties continue to fight for control of territory.