ISTANBUL (AA) – The Russian air campaign in Syria has killed 600 civilians so far, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.
“The Russian attacks reportedly killed at least 600 civilians and struck at least 12 medical facilities in areas controlled or contested by non-state armed groups,” the human-rights group said in its annual report for 2015, released on Wednesday.
Since beginning its air campaign in Syria last September, Russia has come under mounting international criticism amid reports that it has been targeting civilian areas — and the opposition groups that control them — in an effort to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
But while Moscow says its warplanes are targeting Daesh positions in Syria, some members of the western NATO alliance say Russia is targeting moderate opposition groups opposed to Syria’s Assad regime.
In recent months, ongoing airstrikes by Russian warplanes have forced more than half a million Syrians to leave their homes, with many fleeing to Turkey or other neighboring states.
“In fact, Russia has faced grave accusations,” Amnesty’s Turkey Campaigns and Advocacy Director Ruhat Sena Aksener told Anadolu Agency in Istanbul.
Aksener added that Russia has not changed its course of action despite the accusations.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev claimed on Feb. 13 during the Munich Security Conference that there was “no evidence of our bombing civilians”.
However, in its previous report dated Dec. 23, Amnesty called on Russia to stop its “indiscriminate and other unlawful attacks” in Syria.
The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Jan. 21 that Russian warplanes had caused 1,015 civilian deaths in Syria.
Amnesty also accused the PYD of displacing people in northern Syria.
The group said the PYD “forcibly displaced people from 10 villages and towns, including Husseiniya in February and prevented displaced residents from returning to their homes in Suluk in July.”
PYD members also carried out arbitrary arrests, detentions and unfair trials of suspected supporters of armed groups and others, according to the report.
Amnesty also accused the PYD of using child soldiers.
Turkey considers the PYD and its armed wing, the YPG, to be terrorist organizations.
Developments in 2015, overall, tested “the international system’s capacity to respond to crises and mass forced displacements of people,” Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty, said in the report.
Shetty said the number of displaced people and people seeking refuge had exceeded that seen during the Second World War.
“The human rights of many families and individuals on the move were violated,” he stressed.
At least 250,000 people have been killed and 10 million displaced since the Syria conflict began in 2011, according to UN figures.
According to Turkish authorities Turkey hosts more than 2.5 million Syrian people, and has spent $9 billion so far on caring for those who have fled the war.