UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profiles] stated [press release] on Friday that the continued violence in Syria is harming civilian human rights and humanitarian attempts at aiding those in need. Amos expressed particular concern [press release, PDF] for the vicious nature of the violence, the increased sexual violence and Syria's harsh winter. Four million people in Syria require assistance, and half of those have been internally displaced. The winter and ubiquitous violence are leaving thousands of people living in tents and lacking adequate access to food, medical equipment or services. Amos stated that response efforts are unable to reach millions of individuals due to lack of access and reduced funding. Pillay expressed concern over the death toll reaching 60,000 [JURIST report], stating, "The figures speak for themselves. Sixty thousand is not a figure that should be treated lightly." Both the Syrian government and the opposition forces have reportedly committed human rights violations.
The Syrian government has been engaged in a bloody conflict with numerous opposition groups [BBC backgrounder] since March 2011 when nationwide protests opposing the government of President Bashar al-Assad [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] began. More than 50 countries asked [JURIST report] the UN Security Council [official website] on Monday to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. The revolt against Assad has lasted 21 months and began with protests that quickly turned into violence between Assad's forces and demonstrators. A study carried out by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] reported that the average number of deaths per month has increased from the summer of 2011, where the monthly average was approximately 1,000, to July 2012, where the monthly average was 5,000 deaths. In October Pillay urged [JURIST report] world powers to work toward ending the suffering in Syria, emphasizing uniformity and cooperation among leaders to quell the violence.