Russian / Syrian attack on Red Crescent convoy in Syria is a Russian and Syrian war crime

Russian or Syrian aircraft have bombed a Red Crescent humanitarian aid convoy and warehouse in Syria. Despite calls to Russian and Syrian forces from UN officials, the bombing continued during the night.

If as appears probable the bombing was intentional, it constitutes a war crime. Under international law, not only the country whose planes did the bombing would be responsible for the war crime, but also any country which assisted in the operation, such as Russia which is ssisting Syria in its air operations.

It is not hard to imagine that Vladimir Putin, emboldened by his massive “victory” in the parliamentary elections on Sunday in Russia, ordered the strike in retaliation for the U.S. coalition “mistake” of bombing and killing 62 Syrian soldiers days earlier during the “ceasefire”.


(1) Julian Borger, ” US blames Russia after UN aid convoy in Syria targeted by air attack; UN official says ‘inexplicable’ attack could amount to a war crime if bombing which killed aid workers proved to be deliberate,” The Guardian, September 20, 2016.

(2) AP, “Aid Convoy Attacked as Syria Says Cease-Fire Failed,” New York Times, September 19, 2016 (10:25 P.M. EDT).

(3) Government of Ireland, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, ““International Humanitarian Law”:

International humanitarian law (IHL) – known also as the Law of Armed Conflict or the Law of War – is the body of international rules that in time of armed conflict protects those who do not, or can no longer, participate in hostilities, such as civilians, the wounded and prisoners of war.

Basic Rules of International Humanitarian Law

The wounded and sick must be collected and cared for by the party to the conflict which has them in its power. Medical personnel and medical facilities and vehicles may not be attacked. Personnel wearing the distinctive emblem of the Red Cross, Red Crescent or Red Crystal on white backgrounds, and facilities and vehicles bearing the emblems, must be respected.

(4) “REPRISE–Syria: Russia and Iran complicit under International Law in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” The Trenchant Observer, September 8, 2015.

Probable Russian involvement is suggsted by the quick propaganda claim that no bombing had taken place, but rather the damage was caused by a fire. See

(5) “Russia denies responsibility for aid convoy strike; UN halts all aid deliveries after attack destroys 18 trucks in rebel-held northern Aleppo and kills at least 20 people,” Al Jazeera English, September 20, 2016.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.