The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria [official website] urged parties in the Syrian conflict to return to the “negotiation table” after a new report [materials] released Tuesday highlighted an increase of violence suffered by civilians. The escalation occurred after the deterioration of a cessation of hostilities agreement reached by the parties [JURIST report] in February. The report noted that along with summary executions, forced displacement, and indiscriminate shelling and airstrikes, the Syrian people lack sufficient access to life-saving medical services. Commission Chair Paulo Pinheiro condemned [press release] the prolific pattern of attacks on medical facilities. He called such attacks a “flagrant disregard of the letter and the spirit of international humanitarian law.” More than 250,000 Syrians have died [BBC report] in the conflict and an estimated 600,000 civilians live under siege.
The conflict in Syria [BBC backgrounder] has continued for five years in a civil war surrounding the legitimacy of President Bashar al-Assad. In August a top UN official submitted a report detailing an in-depth investigation into chemical warfare [JURIST report] used by Islamic State and Assad in Syria. That same month Amnesty International said that a suspected chlorine gas attack in Aleppo could amount to a war crime [JURIST report]. In July Human Rights Watch reported [JURIST report] cluster bombs have been targeted at civilians and rebels in Northern Syria. In June UN human rights experts called for the immediate protection [JURIST report] of thousands of Syrian civilians.