UN chief launches Syria inquiry
Antonio Guterres delivers a speech as he arrives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in September. EPA
Date: 2019-09-14 19:30
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres selected a Nigerian general Friday to lead a UN investigation into attacks on hospitals and other civilian sites in Syria's opposition stronghold in the northwest amid protests that its findings will be kept secret.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced that the three-member board of inquiry to start work Sept. 30 will be led by Lt. Gen. Chikadibia Obiakor and include Janet Lim of Singapore and Maria Santos Pais of Portugal.
Dujarric stressed that the board will only ascertain the facts of the attacks and will not assess blame. Its findings "are internal documents and not for public release," he said.
Guterres announced plans for the board Aug. 1 following a series of attacks on hospitals, schools and other civilian facilities in Idlib and the de-confliction area in northwest Syria.
UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said two weeks ago that more than 500 civilians have been killed and many hundreds injured since the offensive began. The UN health and children's agencies reported then that 43 health facilities, 87 educational facilities, 29 water stations and seven markets had been affected by the fighting, he said.
Guterres said he was forming the board of inquiry after claims, especially from human rights and humanitarian groups, that civilian facilities were being targeted despite their coordinates being given to the Assad regime and Russian military.
Dujarric, the UN spokesman, said the parties concerned — Assad regime, Russia and Turkey — have been informed that the board will start its work shortly.
He said Guterres "urges all parties concerned to extend their full cooperation to the board," adding: "We very much hope that they have access to the sites of the incidents."
Based on AP