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Syria: UN human rights expert appalled by deadly air strikes on camp for displaced

GENEVA (6 May 2016) – United Nations expert on the human rights of internally displaced persons Chaloka Beyani today condemned in the strongest terms the deadly attacks on camps for internally displaced persons that took place on Thursday 5 May calling the actions “a grievous attack against highly vulnerable civilians that has all the hallmarks of a war crime.” 

Air strikes hit settlements near Sarmada, a town in Idlib province close to the border with Turkey in northern Syria where displaced people had sought sanctuary, reportedly killing at least 30 people and injuring over 80, among them many women and children. Most of those in the camps had fled fighting and air attacks on Aleppo since February.

“There can be no justification for such atrocities against those who had already been forced to flee their homes due to conflict and are at their most vulnerable living in tents and reliant on humanitarian assistance,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons. “A targeted attack against them would constitute an abhorrent and criminal violation of international humanitarian and human rights law and standards.”

“International law is clear: every human being has the inherent right to life,” Mr. Beyani stated. Referring to the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, he reiterated that “attacks or other acts of violence against internally displaced persons are prohibited in all circumstances, including attacks against their camps or settlements.”

The Special Rapporteur, who visited Syria in May 2015 to assess the situation of internally displaced persons in the country, stressed that such principles must be observed by all authorities, groups and persons irrespective of their legal status and applied without any adverse distinction. “I call upon all conflicting parties in Syria to ensure they comply with these responsibilities,” he said.

“The civilian character of these camps was clearly evident,” Mr. Beyani said expressing his dismay at the attacks. “An investigation into the events is critical to determine responsibility and to hold those responsible to account.”

“This shocking violation of international law must not be repeated and internally displaced persons must be provided with all necessary protection and reparations for the violations of their rights and the losses they have suffered,” the human rights expert concluded.  

Mr. Chaloka Beyani (Zambia) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons by the Human Rights Council in September 2010. As a Special Rapporteur, he is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IDPersons/Pages/IDPersonsIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Syria: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/IQIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Mr. Graham Fox (+41 22 917 9640 / gfox@ohchr.org) or write to  idps@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:

Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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