Amnesty International: US-Led Airstrikes in Raqqah Could be “War Crimes”

Amnesty International: US-Led Airstrikes in Raqqah Could be “War Crimes”

On June 5th Amnesty International released a report titled “War of Annihilation” detailing the “devastating toll on civilians”1 that the US-led coalition against Daesh had in Raqqah, Syria. Amnesty International researchers spent two weeks in Raqqah where they visited 42 airstrike sites and interviewed 112 people. The report documents casualties, destroyed infrastructure, and the accounts of four families who were profoundly affected by the US’s military campaign. Amnesty International claims that although civilian casualties were exacerbated by Daesh defense tactics, the US was aware of those tactics and could have prevented the grave amount of damage. Overall, Amnesty’s studies concluded that the US’s determination to wipe out ISIS from Raqqah overpowered its responsibility to minimize civilian harm.

Rasha Badran, a survivor of the airstrikes, told Amnesty International, “I don’t understand why they bombed us…Didn’t the surveillance planes see that we were civilian families?”1 Badran lost 30 family members due to coalition airstrikes, including her 1 year old daughter Tulip. Other families recounted taking shelter in cellars for weeks and moving from place to place to avoid the risk of being targeted. Several individuals recalled their failed efforts to rescue family members from beneath rubble and helplessly watching them die. The report also showcases before and after pictures of families’ homes, which were destroyed beyond repair.

According to CNN, the Pentagon is contesting the report, with a spokesman of the coalition saying that Amnesty International is “judging us guilty until proven innocent.”2 Defenders of the coalition also argued that Amnesty International should have consulted with coalition leaders in order to understand their intentions and fact check the total number of civilian casualties. A spokesman from the British Ministry of Defense, which took part in the coalition alongside the US, told CNN that they “do everything [they] can to minimize the risk to civilian life,” but everyone “must accept that the risk of inadvertent civilian casualties is ever present.”2

By Yakin Ouederni

  1. “War of Annihilation Devastating Toll on Civilians.” Amnesty International, 5 June 2018.
  2. Dewan, Angela. “Amnesty International Says US-Led Strikes on Raqqah May Be War Crimes.” CNN, Cable News Network, 5 June 2018.