[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] said Thursday that the use of starvation as a weapon in Syria is a war crime [transcript]. According to Ban, UN teams have witnessed horrifying scenes of "the elderly and children, men and women, who were little more than skin and bones." Ban said, " All sides—including the Syrian government which has the primary responsibility to protect Syrians—are committing this and other atrocious acts prohibited under international humanitarian law." The UN World Food Programme [official website] has sent a convoy of trucks into the city of Madaya to deliver desperately needed food and medical supplies.
The conflict in Syria [JURIST backgrounder] has continued for five years in a civil war based around the legitimacy of President Bashar al-Assad [BBC reports]. According to the UN more than 250,000 Syrians, mostly civilians, have died, and about 10.5 million have fled their homes. These refugees have attempted to flee the fighting by entering Europe, prompting UN officials to urge a global response [JURIST report] to the crisis. In December the UN Security Council adopted [JURIST report] a resolution outlining 15 steps for peace in Syria. The conflict has been highlighted by countless human rights violations and use of chemical weaponry, which has created mounting pressure among the international community to find an end to the conflict.