Syria rights investigators back calls for earthquake ‘failures’ probe
Top rights investigators appointed by the Human Rights Council on Monday delivered a highly critical assessment of the role of the Syrian Government and the international community including the UN, in getting help to communities in the northwest, hit by last month’s deadly earthquake emergency.
The Commission of Inquiry on Syria pointed to “failures that hindered the delivery of urgent and lifesaving aid” to the largely opposition-held northwest region, in the days after the 6 February quakes.
Humanitarian assessments point to more than 7,000 people killed in Syria by the natural disaster.
Rescue equipment lacking
At a press conference in Geneva, chairperson of the inquiry, Paulo Pinheiro, backed calls for a probe into alleged delays in getting aid and rescue equipment to those affected.
The people of Syria had “a right to the truth”, the veteran rights experts insisted, adding that it was also in the interests of “international good practice”, so that mistakes could be identified and avoided in future.
“They have the right to know what exactly happened for not receiving (help) immediately,” he said, adding that Syrian people in the affected areas remained “completely appalled by this incapacity of the international organizations to come to their support and aid” because three days after the disaster “a lot of people could survive if there was a fast, immediate reaction of the international community and the United Nations”.
No let-up in hostilities
According to the Commission of Inquiry’s latest report into the Syrian crisis, parties to the 12-year-old conflict continued to commit “widespread human rights violations and abuses” in the months leading up to the earthquake tragedy.
Hostilities even continued in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the Commissioners said, “even in the very areas devastated by the earthquakes. These include last week’s reported Israeli attack on Aleppo international airport, a conduit for humanitarian aid.”
Highlighting the delays in securing international aid access from Türkiye to the stricken northwest, the Commission of Inquiry report noted that the Syrian Government required “a full week to consent to life-saving cross-border aid access”.
Mistrust on all sides
Cross-line aid deliveries were also “impeded” by the Government and the opposition Syrian National Army (SNA), the independent investigators said, adding that the non-state armed group Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) in northwest Syria also “refused cross-line aid from Damascus”.
With entire communities in Syria’s northwest destroyed by last month’s “exceptional” disaster, Commissioner Hanny Megally explained how they had pleaded for assistance.
“People were saying, ‘We need heavy equipment, we need search teams with dogs, people are still alive under the rubble. Where’s the UN, where’s the international community to help us?’ And they could see not far away the same earthquake, lots of international assistance being provided on the Turkish side of the border whereas they’re all waiting for something that did not transpire.”
It's estimate that five million people require basic shelter and non-food assistance in the Syrian part of the earthquake zone.
Already before the 6 February earthquakes, more than 15 million Syrians - more than at any point since the start of the conflict - needed humanitarian assistance.
Heroism amid suffering
Although there were “many acts of heroism amid the suffering” after the earthquake, Commissioner Paulo Pinheiro insisted that the Syrian people “in the most dire need” had been failed by their Government, the international community and the UN.
“Syrians now need a comprehensive ceasefire that is fully respected, for civilians - including aid workers - to be safe,” he said, before adding that the Commission of Inquiry was now investigating fresh attacks “including last week’s reported Israeli attack on Aleppo international airport, a conduit for humanitarian aid”.