FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

War Crimes: Barrel Bombs in Syria and Iraq

by

UN Security Council Resolution 2139 of February 22, 2014, ordered all parties to the conflict in Syria to end the discriminate use of barrel bombs and other weapons in populated areas. In spite of that, both the Syrian and the Iraqi governments continue using them against civilians. Human rights groups have characterized them as weapons of terror and illegal under international conventions.

Barrel bombs are a type of improvised explosive device (IED) sometimes described as “flying IED” typically made from a barrel that has been filled with high explosives, shrapnel, oil and chemicals and then dropped from a plane or a helicopter. They are cheap to produce, so they are used extensively in ongoing conflicts such as Syria and Iraq. Because different explosives can fit into them, and due to their poor accuracy and indiscriminate use in civilian areas they provoke devastating effects and loss of lives.

The earlier use of these bombs was in South Sudan in the 1990s, where they were expelled from transport planes. Since then, they are now being extensively used by the Syrian Air Force and by the Iraqi government forces, as happened during the Anbar clashes (2013-2014.)

“What is happening now in Iraq definitely started in Syria. If I were al-Maliki, and seeing Assad next door using the same tactics without a slap on the wrist and gaining ground as a result, it stands to reason he would say, “Why the hell not?’” said Erin Evers of Human Rights Watch.

Residents of Tikrit, Baiji and Mosul report also that government forces dropped barrel bombs on their cities during the 2014 Northern Iraq offensive, as they also did later in July in Fallujah and the nearby town of Al-Karmath.

Barrel bombs use in Syria was first identified in August 2012. Although a Russian military expert initially denied its existence, an October 2012 video clearly showed a barrel bomb being lit and dropped by Syrian Air Force personnel. It is estimated that between 5,000 and 6,000 barrel bombs have been used and that more than 20,000 people have been killed by them since the conflict in Syria began in March 2011.

Aleppo has been the focal point for the use of barrel bombs by the Syrian government. According to evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch, Syrian government forces have increased the use of barrel bombs since the UN Security Council passed the resolution banning their use last February.

Since that resolution was passed until July 14, 2014, Human Rights Watch identified over 650 new major strikes in Aleppo neighborhoods held by groups opposing the government. According to statistics from the Violations Documentation Center, aerial bomb attacks killed 1,655 civilians in the Aleppo governorate between February 22 and July 22, 2014.

Area bombing or carpet bombing, where conventional shells are used to bombard a large are from the air – a practice widely used during Second World War- was banned by the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Convention. The Geneva Conventions of 1949 are still considered the cornerstone of contemporary humanitarian law.

Additional Protocol I relates to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts. According to this Protocol, it is not lawful to treat a whole city as a target simply because it contained a number of separate military targets within it. These kinds of actions also violate the principles established in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court regarding the protection of civilians in combat zones.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been extremely critical of the use of weapons that increasingly kill innocent civilians and continue to fuel the conflict. “Further escalation of violence will only serve the agenda of those who see military means as the only way forward, at the expense of the Syrian people, who have suffered enough already,” he said referring to the war in Syria.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.

More articles by:

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
Binoy Kampmark
Death on the Road: Memory in Tim Winton’s Shrine
Tony McKenna
The Oily Politics of Unity: Owen Smith as Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary
Nizar Visram
If North Korea Didn’t Exist US Would Create It
John Carroll Md
At St. Catherine’s Hospital, Cite Soleil, Haiti
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Singaporean Conjucture
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Trump: the Birth of the Hero
Jill Richardson
Trump on Cuba: If Obama Did It, It’s Bad
Olivia Alperstein
Our President’s Word Wars
REZA FIYOUZAT
Useless Idiots or Useful Collaborators?
Clark T. Scott
Parallel in Significance
Louis Proyect
Hitler and the Lone Wolf Assassin
Julian Vigo
Theresa May Can’t Win for Losing
Richard Klin
Prog Rock: Pomp and Circumstance
Charles R. Larson
Review: Malin Persson Giolito’s “Quicksand”
David Yearsley
RIP: Pomp and Circumstance
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail