As the Syrian war enters a fourth year, the harrowing violence shows no signs of subsiding – the fighting has driven some nine million civilians from their homes and has reduced many of those who remain to scavenging – said the head of a United Nations-appointed human rights panel, denouncing the international community’s inaction in the pursuit of peace and accountability.
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic – appointed by the UN Human Rights Council – presented earlier today in Geneva a detailed report on the living conditions of men and women in the region and outlined a list of individuals – on all sides - believed to be responsible for crimes against humanity.
“The lives of over one hundred thousand people have been extinguished. Those freed from detention now live with the physical and mental scars of torture. The fate and whereabouts of thousands more remain unknown,” regretted Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chair of the Commission.
According to the report, nearly nine million people – a third of the population – have fled their homes. In addition to the 2.5 million refugees, there are an estimated 6.5 million internally displaced people inside Syria, and millions more living in enclaves surrounded by violence.
“This is the tragic reality of the Syrian war,” stated Mr. Pinheiro in his presentation, adding that “no one can claim ignorance of what is going on.”
Drawing attention to the starvation endured by civilians, the repeated acts of terrorism they face every day, and ever growing complexity of the battlefield layers, the Panel deplored the lack of action by the international community: “Compassion does not and should not suffice,” insisted Mr. Pinheiro adding that “we cannot continue to sit for years in these rooms, writing reports and making speeches lamenting the blood that is running in Syria’s streets.”
In February, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2139 which highlighted the need to end impunity for violations of international law and reaffirmed “that those who have committed or are otherwise responsible for such violations and abuses in Syria must be brought to justice.”
In the course of its research, the Commission established a list of individuals and entities, such as military units and armed groups, as well as the names of those responsible for violations and crimes documented throughout its reports, from hostage-taking and terrorism to torture and executions. This so-called “perpetrator’s’ list” also contains names of military commanders who target civilians, airports from which barrel bomb attacks are planned and executed, and armed groups involved in attacking and disciplining civilians.
“We have an enormous volume of testimony – over 2700 interviews as well as a wealth of documentary materials,” said Mr. Pinheiro. “We do not lack information on crimes or on perpetrators. What we lack is a means by which to achieve justice and accountability,” he insisted, calling on the Security Council to “make this pursuit of justice possible” and to resume the negotiation of a political solution “with renewed vigour.”
“The warring parties and the regional and international actors must assume their mantles of responsibility and bring this war, and its horrors, to an end,” said Mr. Pinheiro, underscoring that the volumes of testimony will be the Commission’s enduring legacy: an archive of Syrian voices and a resource for future prosecutions.