[JURIST] The ceasefire [press release] between the Syrian government and rebels seeking to overthrow president Bashar al-Assad [official website] survived its first week on Saturday, and the nation experienced a marked drop in violence. The five-year civil war has killed more than 250,000 Syrians and forced millions from their homes. In the last week, the overall violence is estimated to have dropped 90 percent; excluding violence in ISIL or Nusra Front-held areas as these areas are exempt from the ceasefire. Other goals of the ceasefire, including increased aid to war-torn areas and a decrease in Syrian refugees in Europe, have yet to be realized. However, the Russian and US-backed pact has made some progress on seeking the resignation of al-Assad, which marks an important step in preventing further violence.
The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has been ongoing since 2011 when opposition groups first began protesting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and the increasingly bloody nature of the conflict has put pressure on the international community to intervene. Earlier this week, Amnesty International reported that Russian and Syrian armed forces are deliberately attacking hospitals and other medical facilities as part of a military strategy to clear the way to northern Aleppo. Just prior, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee passed [press release] two resolutions calling for an international tribunal in the Middle East to address the alleged war crimes [JURIST report] committed by the government of Syria and its allies, specifically Russia and Iran. In February the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights reported that the Syrian government is systematically exterminating detainees [JURIST report]. In November Human Rights Watch released a report stating that the practice of caging captured soldiers and civilians constitutes hostage-taking [JURIST report] and an outrage against their personal dignity. In October France opened a torture investigation [JURIST report] into the actions of the Syrian government under Assad in detention facilities.