UN rights chief express ‘utmost alarm’ at worsening situation in Syria

UN rights chief express ‘utmost alarm’ at worsening situation in Syria

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile], expressed “utmost alarm” [press release] Thursday at the worsening situation in Syria. Zeid said that warring parties were “constantly sinking to new depths,” attacking women, children, the sick and the elderly with unprecedented force throughout the nation. He noted how the Governorate of Aleppo, in conjunction with Syrian and Russian forces, displaced approximately 51,000 civilians with another 300,000 “at risk of being placed under siege” following an airstrike offensive last week. Those currently under siege, such as residents of Moaddamiyat al-Sham, Madaya, Deir ez-Zour, Fuah and Kafreya, face malnutrition and limited access to necessary health care. Zeid concluded his remarks stating that all involved parties have international human rights obligations to avoid placing civilians “in peril” and that this “deliberate starvation of civilians as a method of warfare constitutes a clear violation of international humanitarian law.” He also urged for the re-initiation of the Geneva peace talks as soon as possible, stressing that “[a] lasting peaceful resolution of this horrific war must be built on a solid foundation of human rights.”

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 the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights reported [JURIST report] that the Syrian government is systematically exterminating detainees. In November Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] 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. Additionally, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [JURIST report] in October detailing the possibility of war crimes in Syria. The AI report criticized the Syrian government by stating that “they have maintained unlawful sieges, restricted humanitarian assistance deliveries, deliberately attacked civilians, and carried out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, arbitrary detentions, abductions and enforced disappearances.”