[JURIST] A group of UN human rights experts led by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] said Thursday that both sides of the Syrian conflict are committing crimes against humanity [press release] by denying civilians basic necessities of life and humanitarian aid. The experts claimed that these actions are part of a “systematic effort to cause civilian suffering.” In their report, they warned of an increase in shelling of civilians, enforced disappearances and executions. In calling all sides to halt such actions, the group noted:
Depriving people of their access to food and water, impeding their access to health services and wantonly destroying their housing constitute clear violations of the human rights to food, to water, to sanitation, to housing, to health, and to freedom from inhumane treatment, protected under international human rights treaties… Apart from obstructing humanitarian access through sieges and tight check-points, attacks have been carried out to destroy harvests, kill livestock, and cut off water supplies, with the apparent aim of starving out the targeted populations. At the same time, entire neighborhoods and residences are being razed, aggravating the dire housing situation, causing further displacement.
The experts include the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation. There are reportedly more than 100,000 people trapped in Yarmouk Camp that are at risk of starvation. In addition, more than a quarter million people are living in cities essentially under siege.
The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has persisted for almost three years. 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. The UN released a report [JURIST report] earlier this week to the Security Council, which highlights the severe suffering faced by children in Syria during the period between March 2011 and November 2013. The report states that the Syrian government and military allies have killed and tortured extensive numbers of children, while opposition forces have recruited children to aid in combat and have summarily executed children as well. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] last week that Syrian authorities had deliberately demolished residential neighborhoods with explosives and bulldozers in Damascus and Hama over the last year. The main opposition group within Syria, the Syrian National Coalition [official website], recently agreed to attend the Geneva II conference after an invitation to Iran was rescinded by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Following Iran’s original invitation to Geneva II, the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition announced [JURIST report] that it would refuse to attend the peace talks if Iran was in attendance. Iran is the primary international supporter of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the current regime.