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Syria: Severe internal displacement crisis due to disregard for human rights and humanitarian law – UN expert

GENEVA (9 August 2012) – Disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law has led to a “severe internal displacement crisis in Syria, as the conflict intensifies,” the UN Expert on the human rights of internally displaced persons said Wednesday.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Mr. Chaloka Beyani, expressed deep concern about the situation of the estimated 1.5 million people reportedly recently internally displaced by the armed conflict in Syria.

“The intense fighting and use of heavy weaponry in densely populated areas are a major concern. More and more people are being forced daily to flee their homes as a result of escalating violence, and are seeking refuge in host families, schools and makeshift shelters,” Mr. Beyani said. The Special Rapporteur called upon all Syrian authorities and parties to the conflict to ensure respect for international law, including human rights and humanitarian law, in all circumstances, so as to protect and assist internally displaced persons (IDPs), and prevent conditions that may lead to further forced internal displacement of persons.

“It is imperative that all parties to the conflict respect international humanitarian and human rights law, particularly the right to life and the right to physical integrity, and ensure the protection of IDPs as civilians.”

The Special Rapporteur urged the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic to allow full and unrestricted access to IDPs by humanitarian actors so that they are able to reach those in need.

“The lack of access to healthcare, shelter, water, food and other essential services is compounding an already severe situation for the IDPs,” Mr. Beyani said. “I am also concerned by the increasing vulnerability of IDPs as they move further from their livelihood and social support networks.”

The Special Rapporteur also urged the Government to continue working with the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the country to secure safe spaces for IDPs where they can access humanitarian assistance and protection in an impartial and neutral manner, without fear of arrest or discrimination of any kind. Mr. Beyani also called on the opposition forces and other armed groups to respect these spaces and allow humanitarian actors free and unhindered access to areas in which they operate.

The UN Special Rapporteur drew attention to the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and reminded parties to the conflict that IDPs are entitled to the rights and freedoms afforded to them under international law irrespective of their legal status without discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion or belief, political or other opinion, national ethnic or social origin, legal or social status, age, disability, property birth, or any other grounds. He reminded the parties to the conflict in Syria that IDPs have the right to request and receive protection and humanitarian assistance without being persecuted or punished.

The Special Rapporteur stressed the need for the international donor community to make funds available to assist the humanitarian effort inside Syria in order to ensure the protection and assistance for the vast number of IDPs.

ENDS

Chaloka Beyani, a Zambian national and professor of international law at the London School of Economics, was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons by the Human Rights Council in September 2010. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IDPersons/Pages/IDPersonsIndex.aspx