The Irish Times

War crimes in Syria

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Sir, – Damian Hugh O’Neill (Letters, April 12th), in his reply to my letter of April 6th, makes the case for the lifting of sanctions on the Assad regime in Syria, suggesting I offered a “one-sided” view. He selectivel­y quotes recent reports from Amnesty Internatio­nal and the UN’s Internatio­nal Commission of Enquiry on Syria – though they have been publishing these reports since the peaceful uprising in 2011 – noting that they usually condemn all perpetrato­rs of war crimes and crimes against humanity but failed to mention that they also usually attribute responsibi­lity for the majority to the Assad regime and his allies Russia and Iran.

For example, that is true under most headings including aerial bombing of civilians by the Syrian regime and in relation to Russia’s systematic bombing of hospitals and other civilian infrastruc­ture, including schools, bakeries and residentia­l areas since it entered Syria in September 2015 to prevent Assad falling.

Therefore, when I quoted Amnesty and the commission I did so to show that aid alone will not solve anything because most of the millions of refugees are afraid to return because Assad

is still in power. Indeed, it is estimated that up to 130,000 are still disappeare­d in his torture prisons; Saydnaya prison which Amnesty referred to as “a human slaughterh­ouse” is still open; the Mukhabarat, Assad’s secret police, are still disappeari­ng, torturing and killing detainees at a time when his regime, with Russia and Iran, are said to control 70 per cent of the country; and the Iranians, which make up 80 per cent of Assad’s forces, including Hezbollah and various Shia militias, have also been cited for committing crimes against humanity.

However, I would agree the way the US with its allies bombed Raqqa was indefensib­le when defeating Isis with the Kurds. Nonetheles­s that does not make the scorched earth bombing of civilians since 2011 by Assad, and with Russia, since 2015 acceptable. Lifting sanctions on Assad and his henchmen now would de facto finance the rebuilding of Syria and bolster their unreformed, brutal and very corrupt regime, and prevent refugees ever returning. – Yours, etc,

RONAN L TYNAN, (Director –Syria: The Impossible Revolution), Dublin 3.

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