Syria: Sky News footage almost certainly shows Russia committed war crime, says lawyer
15 November 2019, 20:35 | Updated: 15 November 2019, 23:47
Footage of first-hand testimony suggesting Russian warplanes carried out airstrikes that killed dozens of people in Syria would mean Moscow almost certainly committed a war crime, a lawyer has told Sky News.
Human rights legal expert Geoffrey Nice was speaking about our investigation into four aerial attacks in quick succession in an Idlib district filled with schools.
Eight minutes after the first attack another bomb hit almost the same spot, as residents were trying to help victims of the initial strike.
The four bombings on Ma'arat Al-Numan in one day were the worst in recent times in Idlib province, the last rebel area in Syria. Eight of the 44 people who died were children, and more than 70 were injured.
Maps produced by Russian generals to denounce the residents' claims focus on an area 300 metres away from a market area hit twice in the strikes.
Mr Nice said: "First of all you've got to prove Russian involvement, whether by supporting others, actively engaging in them, or whatever.
"Activity engaging in this kind of attack would be - if, as revealed on the coverage - almost certainly war crimes.
"Why? You've got a couple of incidents there: hospital, school, I think, and also the double hit on the domestic building.
"And you have to set that activity - all of which would be… 'war crime criminal', if intentional - you have to set that pinpoint accuracy that is available to… air military, in modern warfare.
"And therefore to hit the same place once, getting out to gather round and hitting them again is to do an act that is bound to cause death to innocent civilians.
"Attacking a hospital, especially if, as your film reveals, all the coordinates of the hospital had been supplied… hitting that, claiming that in some way it's involved in the conflict is very unlikely to be anything but a serious war crime.
"So, your footage is extremely powerful evidence."
When asked, what the international response should be, Mr Nice said: "Once you have evidence of this gravity, the available mechanisms of reporting countries concerned to the International Criminal Court, or in some other way to United Nations mechanisms for judicial intervention, is obvious.
"It's also equally obvious that with the power of Russia sitting on the Security Council that those means are almost always not available to the world community generally. But that is what ought to happen.
"And of course, when you talk about countries being exposed - or should be being exposed to judicial process - that also demands of any responsible country that it discloses the records it has - genuine records. "Not as is alleged in your film a false map produced by the Russian generals explaining how they were not involved.
"One of the problems with all these alleged crimes and judicial processes that should follow them is that none of the countries involved will ever perform the public duty of providing the material that would prove guilt or innocence."
And Mr Nice said the incident in Idlib was unlikely to ever go to trial.
He said: "At the end of the overall operation if there is a desire to allow some kind of resolution through agreement or whatever else it may be, it's almost bound to come with limited prospects of either all or even some of the people who have clearly committed war crimes, in my view, being brought to trial.
"It's an unhappy state of affairs but it may be the reality."
Mr Nice is a human rights lawyer who works in international criminal law and who prosecuted Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes.