Aleppo University Hospital (AUH), Syria
" Attacking hospitals and medical workers is a non-negotiable red line. As such, it must be set out -- in clear and simple terms - in all military manuals, rules of engagement and standard operating procedures. Too often, unverified intelligence, or opaque claims that a hospital is a quote "command and control center," is justification enough for an attack. To stop this, there must be accountability. There must be credible investigations. And not just by the perpetrators.
Medicine Sans Frontiers (MSF) International President, Dr. Joanne Liu, addressing the United Nations Security Council, 9/26/ 2016
As of today, the increasingly well documented legal cases, with respect to more than 2000 alleged indictable War Crimes in Syria is leading to many governments insisting on holding accountable those who are committing these crimes against humanity. Not just in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria, but also in Yemen and Iraq.
It is increasingly likely these appeals will eventuate in post-conflict Special International Tribunals with criminal jurisdiction. Those who currently stand accused are military forces funded and equipped by at least ten countries including the United States, UK, Russia, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Lebanon, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, among others. If International Humanitarian Law is supported by the increasingly horrified and outraged global community, at least some officials from the above named will have their day in court.
Meanwhile, some political water-carriers and internet "activists" some paid-some apparently with lots of time on their hands and who are supporting one side in the Syrian civil war are waging a malicious campaign against Syrian volunteers who are risking their lives daily to save the lives of their families and community. Being targeted are as many as a dozen youth, student, Red Cross type organizations as well spontaneously formed local committees across Syria who with no other emergency assistance available or likely to arrive to their neighborhoods anytime soon, are digging through rubble to try to save lives. Among the lifesaving volunteer organizations being vilified are the White Helmets, The Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society (SARCS), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF), the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) to name just a few.
The much acclaimed White Helmets rescuers, working in east Aleppo and Idlib governorate are being particularly viciously defamed, but SARCS, MSF and several others have not been spared. The White Helmets are being attacked with all sorts of unfounded accusations and conspiracy theories that have nothing to do with who the volunteers are, what the rescue workers are actually doing, why they are doing it, and their contacts, if any at all, with political factions abroad.
This week the White Helmets are being accused of helping save the lives of "terrorists" to the exclusion of others. This charge is nonsense. With the Hippocratic oath as their policy, White Helmets treat the wounded without regard for a war victims political views, race or religion. Whether street beggar, scholar, government supporter, Shia, Sunni, Christian, atheist, Taliban, Huthi rebel or Islamic State (IS) or other fanatics-all of whom have received lifesaving assistance in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria.
During interviews, White Helmets rescue workers insist that under the Geneva Conventions, ratified by 196 countries, including the 193 UN Member states, all human beings have a right to medical treatment even in a war, if she or he is stricken and no longer fighting. The same body on International Humanitarian Law also protects Syrian Civil Defense workers. That protection was stripped from the 110 White Helmets killed while on rescue missions during the past three years. Also the SARCS volunteers killed when their aid convoy was attacked last month. The Geneva conventions are under serious threat in this era of the War on Terror and this development is extremely dangerous for humanitarian aid workers. Many warring parties see them as supporters of terrorists or of the government and are disregarding the neutrality of medical professionals in war zones. As a result, hospitals have gone from being protected zones to becoming, like schools, death traps.