Syrian civilians tell us exactly about the injuries they and their relatives got as a result of the actions of militants and rocket-bombing or artillery attacks by the coalition. People tell how they or their children and relatives lost their sight, hands, and became disabled. The witnesses tell how the militants were shooting at civilians who tried to escape from captured settlements, and those who were captured were then transported to prisons for possible exchange. Many of the interviewed spent several years in militant prisons, and then they were exchanged for militants thanks to the activities of the legitimate government of Syria. The victims mention lack of food, beatings and other humiliations they have experienced in militant prisons, killings of prisoners, and absence of medical care. Witnesses also tell about pillaging which took place in the settlements occupied by terrorists, as well as about the new code of conduct introduced by terrorists in the occupied towns and villages, forced propagation of the “Sharia law” as it was understood by militants.

The testimonies of ordinary Syrian civilians about the bombing by the American coalition are also revealing. Witnesses and victims emphasize that there were no militant positions near the locations where the coalition forces attacked civilians, and only in a few cases the militant positions were at a distance of 200-300 meters from the civilians. In a number of cases, attacks on civilians were deliberate. For example, the coalition forces attacked both those people who escaped from ISIS and tried to cross the Euphrates River, and those who left their homes to escape the threat of bombing, and moved to live in temporary shelters in the fields.

In a significant number of cases, women and children were victims of the coalition. Many of them lost their arms and legs, some of them got blind, burned, received shrapnel wounds to the head, etc. The victims say that during these coalition strikes they were either in their own homes or in the homes of their relatives, and in crowded places - at crossings or at refugee camps.

International humanitarian law[1] establishes legal norms that all parties to a war or armed conflict are obliged to adhere to. These norms guarantee protection to civilians who are not directly involved in hostilities. The United States is a party to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. Great Britain and France are also parties to these conventions, as well as to the three additional protocols.

One of the basic principles of international humanitarian law is the “principle of distinction.” It requires the parties to the conflict to “distinguish between civilians and combatants.” The implementation of this principle ensures that “attacks can only be directed against combatants” and ensures that attacks “are not directed against civilians.”[2] According to international humanitarian law, if civilians do not take part in hostilities, then targeting them is a war crime.

Another crucial principle of international humanitarian law is the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks. Carrying out an indiscriminate attack resulting in the death or injury of a civilian population is a war crime[3].

Another principle of international humanitarian law is the principle of proportionality. It prohibits disproportionate attacks that may cause “incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.”[4] Carrying out a deliberate disproportionate attack that results in excessive accidental death or injury of the civilian population constitutes a war crime.

It is clear that the militants do not adhere to these conventions, but the coalition of the United States and its allies – France, Great Britain and others are parties to these conventions. It is noteworthy that the witnesses – ordinary Syrian citizens – emphasize that the militants left their locations in towns and villages a few days before the start of the airstrikes and conclude that the American coalition and the militants in Syria acted together. Moreover, some interviewees testify how the US troops arranged evacuation of several ISIS leaders, and their escorts were shot from helicopters.

According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, a “war crime” means:

1) Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, namely, any of the following acts against persons or property protected under the provisions of the relevant Geneva Convention:

  • Willful killing;
  • Torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments;
  • Willfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health;
  • Extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly;

2) Other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict, within the established framework of international law, namely, any of the following acts:

  • Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities;
  • Intentionally directing attacks against civilian objects, that is, objects which are not military objectives;
  • Intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated.

If the actions of the American coalition do not fall under all of these cases, then the ISIS militants have absolutely committed all of the above war crimes. According to international humanitarian law, the United States bears full responsibility not only for the killings of Syrian civilians committed by the Americans, but also for the actions of pro-American militants whom they have trained, armed and whose activities they pay for.



[2] International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Customary IHL Study, Rule 1. The Principle of Distinction between Civilians and Combatants

[3] Article 20(b)(ii) of the 1996 ILC Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind

[4] International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Customary IHL Study, Practice Relating to Rule 14. Proportionality in Attack, Section A. General, I. Treaties Additional Protocol I, Article 51(5)(b) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I