The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, said on Thursday that hundreds of thousands of civilians in various parts of Syria face dire humanitarian conditions, “particularly those under sieges imposed both by government forces and affiliated armed groups, and by armed opposition groups, including [the Islamic State].”
In a statement obtained by Al-Souria Net, Hussein expressed his “utmost alarm” about the human rights situation that is witnessing a rapid deterioration in the city of Aleppo and its environs, as well as in other parts of Syria. He said that “shocking violations and abuses are committed on a daily basis.”
He criticized what he described as “horrendous acts” in Syria and said that “the warring parties in Syria are constantly sinking to new depths, without apparently caring in the slightest about the death and destruction they are wreaking across the country. Women and children, the elderly, the wounded and sick, the people with disabilities are being used as bargaining chips and cannon fodder day after day, week after week, month after month. It is a grotesque situation.”
Hussein added: “Since the latest offensive by government forces began last week in the Governorate of Aleppo, reportedly accompanied by numerous air strikes by Russian and Syrian aircraft, some 51,000 civilians have been displaced and a further 300,000 are at risk of being placed under siege,” adding that dozens of civilians had been killed since February 1, according to reports.
The High Commissioner said that the “deliberate starvation of civilians as a method of warfare constitutes a clear violation of international humanitarian law,” adding: “The targeting of civilians, including thousands of children, is abhorrent and may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Those responsible for such acts, including under command responsibility, must be brought to justice.”
Hussein noted in his statement all parties’ obligations according to international human rights law and international humanitarian law to protect civilians at all times, and to allow full access to humanitarian aid, and shelter and care for sick and wounded, and not to take actions that deprive civilians of their right to food and health.
He closed his statement by saying: “The peace talks in Geneva must be resumed as early as possible. It is unconscionable that the various parties cannot even manage to sit around the table, when, because of their actions, more than a quarter of a million people have died, and the rest of the population is suffering to such a degree. A lasting peaceful resolution of this horrific war must be built on a solid foundation of human rights."
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.