UN human rights experts called [press release] Wednesday for the immediate protection of thousands of Syrian civilians. According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website], Islamic State (IS) militants have recently seized a number of villages in northern Syria, putting individuals living near the border of Turkey at risk. There has been some effort to clear routes and allow blockaded civilians an avenue to retreat from the devastating conditions, but the situation has quickly deteriorated, and individuals living in this area continue to suffer due to the harsh conditions. These individuals struggle to obtain medical care as medical personal continue to evacuate the area. The UN experts stressed the importance of respecting civilian lives as unconfirmed reports claim that entire families and children have been subject to execution.
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. In March 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 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.