Syrian Archive
Syrian Archive


Russian Hospital Attack in Syria: Syrian Archive Contributes to Filing at UN Human Rights Committee

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Five years after the attack on Kafr Nabl Surgical Hospital in Idlib, a pivotal moment unfolds as Russia faces accountability. On 1 May, a complaint was officially lodged with the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UN HRC), marking a significant step in seeking justice for the victims. A victim and a humanitarian organisation representing the hospital’s patients - Hand in Hand for Aid and Development - jointly filed the complaint, accusing Russia of breaching its human rights obligations during the attack. Syrian Archive contributed to this filing with the submission of an independently drafted open source investigation report, examining 102 pieces of online documentation.

The UN HRC is a body of independent experts that monitors the implementation of a core international human rights law treaty – the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – by its States Parties, including Russia. The filing asserts that Russia’s actions amount to violations of two of the complainants’ fundamental human rights: the right to life (Article 6) and the right to an effective remedy (Article 2). 

Syrian Archive’s investigation is a careful and methodologically rigorous examination of the 102 pieces of online, open source documentation collected for their relevance to the 5 May 2019 attack on Kafr Nabl Surgical Hospital. Implementing Mnemonic research tools and methodologies, this independent investigation was conducted in line with the principles and guidance outlined by the Berkeley Protocol on Digital Open Source Investigations. This submission demonstrates our enduring dedication to facilitating a road to accountability paved in meaningful part by Syrian documenters’ dedicated and tireless online broadcast of footage since 2011.

Separately, in 2021 Syrian Archive published Targeting Health, a dataset of archived open source materials that verifies 410 attacks against medical facilities in Syria and analyses indicators of intentional targeting. 

This week’s filing with the UN HRC was compiled with contributions by a broad coalition of partners, including: Physicians for Human Rights, Dr. Daragh Murray of Queen Mary University of London, Professor Noam Lubell of University of Essex, Professor Francoise Hampson of University of Essex, and the Digital Verification Unit at Essex University’s Human Rights Centre Clinic. The complainants are represented by Professor Philip Leach and the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI).

This legal action comes five years after the attack itself and eight years after the UN Security Council condemned with Resolution 2286 the prevailing impunity for violations and abuses against medical personnel and facilities in conflicts such as Syria. If the UN HRC agrees with the filing’s authors, this case could be the first in any forum to hold Russia to account for unlawful actions in Syria, the first to hold Russia to account for attacks on medical facilities in any conflict, and the first to reach a finding of accountability in relation to the hundreds of attacks on hospitals attributed to Syrian or Russian forces.

For more information or media inquiries, please contact us at info@syrianarchive.org

For additional details on the filing, please see this online briefing by OSJI taking place on the 8th of May at 1:00–3:00 p.m. (EDT) / 18:00–20:00 (BST)\ https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/events/tqvhrhqrd1


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