Summary by the Secretary-General of the report of the United Nations Headquarters Board of Inquiry into the incident involving a relief operation to Urum al-Kubra, Syrian Arab Republic, on 19 September 2016 (Letter) - S/2016/1093 [EN/AR]


Letter dated 21 December 2016 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council

It is my honour to transmit to you a detailed summary of the report of the United Nations Headquarters Board of Inquiry that I established to review and investigate the 19 September 2016 incident involving a United Nations-Syrian Arab Red Crescent humanitarian convoy in Urum al-Kubra (Big Orem), near the city of Aleppo, Syrian Arab Republic (see annex). As widely reported at the time, the convoy was delivering humanitarian assistance to a Syrian Arab Red Crescent compound for distribution to some 78,000 persons in the area when it came under fire, resulting in the death of at least 10 persons and the injury of at least 22 persons, and the destruction of vehicles and property.

The United Nations has a responsibility to determine to the best of its ability the facts and circumstances of incidents in which its personnel are injured or killed, or in which its assets are damaged or lost. It also investigates incidents that negatively affect its operations or activities. Furthermore, in this case, there appeared to be the possibility that a United Nations operation might have been deliberately targeted in a sustained attack. Therefore, in my capacity as the chief administrative officer of the Organization, I decided to establish a Board of Inquiry to investigate the incident.

The Board of Inquiry was established on 21 October 2016 and included experts in the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic, humanitarian operations, international law, weapons systems and munitions. It was headed by LieutenantGeneral (retired) Abhijit Guha. The first meeting of the Board was held in New York, on 31 October 2016. It conducted field visits from 10 to 25 November, on 1 December and from 5 to 9 December 2016. The Board was only able to conduct field visits in the Syrian Arab Republic from 5 to 9 December, given that the issuance of visas by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic was only confirmed on 28 November. It was not permitted to visit the scene of the incident in Urum al-Kubra, as the Government had indicated that it was unable to ensure the safety of the Board members, given the ongoing military operations at that location.