Children in eastern Ghouta likely victims of war crimes
The children in eastern Ghouta, and elsewhere in Syria, are likely victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
That’s according to Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, briefing a high-level panel discussion on the violations of the human rights of children in Syria.
She said that as Syria’s civil war enters its eighth year, some 125,000 children remain trapped in Eastern Ghouta, acutely malnourished and profoundly traumatized.
Over 13 million people in Syria, of whom 40 per cent are children, require life-saving humanitarian assistance.
Panos Moumtzis, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria crisis, and also a member of the panel, said that 2017 was the deadliest year in Syria for children, and that at least 910 were killed and 361 injured.
One hundred and eight verified attacks, including 81 air strikes, took place against hospitals and medical personnel.
He said there was “no justification” for the attacks on children in Syria and for people to be dying because they could get no medical care — care available just a few miles down the road.
Ms. Gilmore added that “an entire generation of Syrians is making their journey from childhood to adulthood, cowered by unending bombardment”.
“What we have to be able to do is look directly in the eyes of the children of Syria and explain ourselves. Explain the chain of command that can switch off the violence and chooses not to. Explain the use of disproportionate, indiscriminate force. Explain why it’s not possible to create safe passage out of conflict zones for those who would flee.”
Ms. Gilmore urged the Council to renew the mandate of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, and to refer Syria urgently to the International Criminal Court.
UNHCR issues new protection guidance for fleeing Venezuelans
Venezuelans fleeing violence, lack of food, medicine, and a loss of income, are pouring out of their country in increasing numbers, looking for refuge in neighbouring countries and beyond.
According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), not all Venezuelans leaving are prompted to do so for refugee-related reasons, but it is becoming increasingly clear that a considerable number “need international protection”.
There has been a 2,000 per cent increase in the number of Venezuelan nationals seeking asylum worldwide since 2014, most of whom travelled to the Americas last year.
It is believed that over 1.5 million are living abroad based on conservative government estimates, resulting in one of the largest population outflows in the region since the creation of UNHCR in 1950.
“In view of the situation in Venezuela, it is crucial that people are not deported or forcibly returned there,” said UNHCR Spokesperson in Geneva, Aikatarini Kitidi.
“UNHCR welcomes and calls on Governments to adopt pragmatic protection-oriented responses for the Venezuelan people, such as alternative legal stay arrangements, including visas or temporary residence permits, as well as other regularization programmes, which guarantee access to the basic rights of health care, education, family unity, freedom of movement, shelter and the right to work.”
Possible “crime of genocide” in Rakhine state
The situation of thousands of Rohingya refugees who have fled violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state amounts to a “human tragedy with the fingerprints of the Myanmar Government and of the international community”.
That’s according to UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, who returned on Tuesday from a week-long trip to Bangladesh, which is hosting the refugees.
He said that all the information he has received indicates that the intent of the perpetrators was to “cleanse northern Rakhine state of their existence”, possibly even to destroy the Rohingya, which would “constitute the crime of genocide” if proven.
The UN official further noted that the majority of the Rohingya wanted to return to Myanmar, but only when they can do so in safety, with dignity and with access to basic human rights.
He urged the international community, in particular the UN Security Council, to consider different accountability options, saying that the world needs to show that it is not ready to tolerate such “barbaric” acts.
According to Mr. Dieng, the Rohingya population has endured what no human beings should have to endure, and conditions must be created for them to return home in safety, and be entitled to the same rights as any other citizen of Myanmar.
“We must not fail the Rohingya population again,” he concluded.