[JURIST] UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein [official profile] stated on Monday that Syrian factions should not offer amnesty for any committed war crimes as opposing sides meet in Geneva to discuss a possible end to the country's ongoing civil war. Hussein stated to the press [UN News report] that war crimes are crimes against humanity and referenced the deliberate starvation of Syrians in seized cities such as Madaya where civilians continue to suffer and die of malnutrition [Al Jazeera report], despite consistent efforts to provide aid. Hussein's comments follow a recent struggle to arrange negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposing High Negotiations Committee (HNC). Though the parties were scheduled to discuss issues of air bombings with UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, the HNC has refused to join the talks until the government releases political prisoners and ends current bombings and sieges. Mistura expects that the talks will proceed as planned [UN News report] for six months with the goal of achieving a broad ceasefire, humanitarian aid, opposition against the ISIL threat and new governmental changes within the near future.
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 backgrounder]. According to the UN more than 250,000 Syrians 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 January UnN humanitarian agencies called for continued aid [JURIST report] to Syrians due to the "deteriorating conditions" in the area of Deir-Ez-Zor. 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.