For Immediate Release
May 3, 2021
Washington, D.C.- Today marks the fifth anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2286, which strongly condemned attacks on healthcare facilities and personnel, and demanded that all parties to armed conflict adhere to international humanitarian law (IHL) in this matter. The resolution was adopted unanimously, and was co-sponsored by 80 Member States. While lauded by humanitarian and human rights organizations at the time as a step forward in protection and accountability for health in conflict, the past five years have not seen the improvements they had hoped this resolution would bring about. Syria remains an unfortunate example, as attacks on health continue with impunity. As recently as March 21st, SAMS-supported Al Atareb Hospital was directly targeted with artillery fire that killed seven patients and wounded five medical staff.
Since Resolution 2286 was adopted in 2016, SAMS has recorded 257 attacks on 67 SAMS-supported health facilities, resulting in 86 deaths and 275 injuries. While significant, this is still only a fraction of all attacks on health that have happened since the resolution was adopted. SAMS first reported on the shortcomings of Resolution 2286 in January 2017. SAMS documented that in the second half of 2016, which was the period immediately following the resolution’s adoption, there were 168 attacks on medical facilities. This made 2016 the most dangerous year for health workers in Syria, despite the significant public attention paid to these attacks, as well as intensive efforts within the Security Council to pass a resolution addressing the attacks.
“Resolution 2286 was met with optimism by health workers, but over the past five years, that optimism has faded as hospitals and health workers in Syria continue to bear the horrific burden of the conflict,” said SAMS President, Mufaddal Hamadeh. “There is no excuse for the targeting of health facilities, especially when the vast majority have shared their coordinates through the UN deconfliction mechanism and are clearly identifiable. The UN and its Member States must renew their efforts at holding perpetrators of attacks on health accountable.”
In addition, health workers who have spoken out publicly about these attacks, or cooperated with accountability efforts, have often been subjected to threats and intimidation by parties to the conflict. SAMS staff have received threats on their lives, as well as towards their families. All members of the Security Council should condemn any efforts at witness intimidation, and Member States should consider offering protection to witnesses.
The past five years have demonstrated that Resolution 2286 has not met its goal of ending impunity for attacks on health. The UN and its Member States must re-commit to the intent behind Resolution 2286, and take steps to pursue accountability for attacks on health. SAMS calls on the UN and its Member States to:
- Thoroughly investigate every attack on health facilities and personnel brought to its attention, refer those findings to the Security Council for action, and make all findings public
- Strengthen the humanitarian deconfliction system through greater transparency and mandatory sharing of data with investigative mechanisms
- Continue to provide funds for investigative mechanisms
- Condemn any efforts at witness intimidation and offer protection to witnesses whose lives are threatened