Syria’s “ever-accelerating” cycle of violence continues to reap civilian casualties and provoke “unspeakable suffering”, the head of a United Nations-mandated Commission of Inquiry warned today, as he lamented the international community’s inability to bring the country’s four-year war to a close.
“The continuing war represents a profound failure of diplomacy,” Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro told the Human Rights Council in Geneva earlier this morning. “Influential States have acted with equivocation in their efforts to extinguish the conflict in Syria. While upholding the need for a political solution, some have deepened their military involvement, accentuating the internationalisation of the conflict.”
Mr. Pinheiro’s remarks come as the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, which he chairs, released its latest paper on the situation on the ground in the Middle Eastern country noting that amid Government bombardments and the violence inflicted by armed groups, Syrian civilians were leading an increasingly precarious existence.
“With each passing day there are fewer safe places in Syria, as evidenced by the mass displacement of civilians within and out of the country,” the UN expert continued. “Indiscriminate attacks on civilian-inhabited areas are committed across the country by most, if not all, of the warring parties.”
According to Mr. Pinheiro, shelling of civilian-inhabited areas by non-State armed groups – including but not limited to the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL), Jabhat Al-Nusra, and Jaysh Al-Islam – has terrorized men, women and children living in localities held by the Government.
“Sending a message that they are a force to be reckoned with, these attacks also appear to be launched with the intention of punishing civilians for their perceived support of the Government,” he continued, adding that wkere these attacks are launched on areas with minority communities, they create further divisions within Syrian society and risk inflaming sectarian tensions.
In its latest situation report, OCHA warned that some 12 million people in the Middle Eastern country today remain in need of humanitarian assistance – a twelve-fold increase since 2011. The figures include 5.6 million children. Meanwhile, 7.6 million people have been displaced by the conflict and another 4.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in hard to reach and besieged locations.
The humanitarian impact of the crisis is only further compounded by the grim human toll which, as of today, counts over 200,000 people killed and over one million injured since hostilities began.
Spotlighting the events on the ground, Mr. Pinheiro also pointed to the Syrian Government’s siege of the Yarmouk camp in Damascus where thousands of Palestinian refugees, including children, remain trapped, resulting in “civilians starving to death, or dying from chronic illness or injuries sustained in aerial bombardments for which there is little or no medical care available.”
“The absence of decisive action by the community of States, as a whole, has nourished a now deeply entrenched culture of impunity,” he added. “A war in which civilians are systematically killed, opponents are silenced, and communities are pitted against one another, requires more than compassion to resolve.”
“The Syrian people deserve an unambiguous commitment to helping them to return their country to peace. To create conditions amenable to negotiations is a shared responsibility,” Mr. Pinheiro concluded.
“This cannot be achieved without the setting aside of the narrow national interests of a few and the coming together of a community which holds within itself not only the ideals of human rights, but also a deepening realisation that, without peace and justice in Syria, all the world will suffer the consequences.”