According to human rights investigators for the U.N., all parties involved in the civil war ravaging Syria share the blame of using bombings and sieges to starve and otherwise punish civilians. In addition, the human rights investigative report released Wednesday places plenty of blame on the world’s powerful countries for not stepping in to stop these types of war crimes from being committed.
The leader of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry, Paulo Pinheiro, held a news conference on Wednesday in which he stated, “One of most stark trends we have documented is the use of siege warfare, the denial of humanitarian aid, food and basic necessities such as medical care and clean water have forced people to choose between surrender and starvation.” Pinheiro also had sharp words for the world powers who have so far neglected to take action regarding Syria, blaming them for human suffering that could have been prevented.
The new report, a result of independent investigations, again asks the U.N. Security Council to present serious violations of war rules to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has the power to prosecute war crime violations. The investigators also call on the U.N. Security Council to use their clout in an attempt to persuade both sides to comply with international humanitarian rules. The report documents numerous atrocities that have taken place in Syria as part of the civil war.
Under the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, government forces have engaged in the tactic of surrounding towns and shelling them continuously as well as preventing access to food, which is described by the report as “starvation until submission.” In addition, Syria’s air force unleashed a barrage of barrel bombs on the city of Aleppo with what is described as “shocking intensity.” The bombing of Aleppo killed hundreds of Syrians and injured countless others.
The Syrian rebels are not without blame, according to the report. The insurgents fighting to remove Assad from power, which include Islamic forces such as ISIS, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda, have attacked civilians, set off car bombs, taken some Syrians hostage, and killed prisoners.
The report also blames a division of world powers, with some backing the Syrian government and others backing the rebels, for prolonging the war by failing to come up with diplomatic solutions. The United States and Western allies attempted a censure of Syria at the U.N. which was vetoed by Russia, which claimed that the censure was unfairly slanted against the Syrian government. In addition, although the fighters and their leaders bear responsibility, that blame is shared by the states who are sending arms to Syria for use by one side or another.
The U.N. report released Wednesday, the seventh since the U.N. began its inquiry in September 2011, covers the time period between July 15 and January 20. Although the independent investigators were denied access to Syria, they conducted 563 interviews with witnesses and victims through telephone calls and Skype. They also met in person with Syrians now in refugee status in countries surrounding Syria.
Since the beginning of the almost four-year-old conflict, a minimum of 140,000 people have been killed. The war has uprooted 6.5 million Syrians within the country while 2.5 million have become refugees abroad.
By Jennifer Pfalz