UN human rights investigators decry targeting of civilians in Syria


​​​​​​​​​​It was just after midnight when air strikes over the Syrian village of al-Mansoura hit a school, where hundreds of civilians had reportedly taken shelter after fleeing the fighting in other parts of the country. The attack allegedly killed up to 200 people and is currently under investigation.

Human rights investigators for the Commission of Inquiry on Syria continue to document horrific incidents caused by all parties to the conflict. As the war in Syria rages for the seventh year, civilians continue to be the target of most warring parties, the Commission said in the latest update of its findings to the Human Rights Council at its 35th session. ​

“Whether it be the unrestrained use of airstrikes against residential neighbourhoods, attacks against doctors and hospitals or the use of suicide bombers that deliberately target civilians, fighting remains brutal in purpose and reprehensible in method,” said Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

“Violence continues to be directed against civilians, with complete disrespect for civilian protection and the laws and principles that form the basis of this Commission’s mandate.”

In Raqqa, the escalation of airstrikes by forces fighting to drive out the Islamic State, has driven 160,000 people from their homes in recent months – the latest addition to the more than six million internally displaced people across the country.

Civilians are also besieged in areas controlled by pro-Government forces where daily airstrikes are destroying markets, bakeries, schools and mosques. While there has been a noticeable reduction of violence in de-escalation zones around Idlib and western Aleppo, enduring violence in other areas has resulted in mounting losses of civilian lives and trapped more than 600,000 people, leaving them no access to food, medical care and other basic services.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, addressing the Human Rights Council as it opened its 35th session, decried Syria’s refusal to allow entry to investigators of the Commission of Inquiry.

“This is notwithstanding the continued horrific suffering of the Syrian people, particularly in besieged communities. I repeat my call for the release of all detainees wrongfully imprisoned in Syria,” Mr. Zeid urged.

Previous reports of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria have documented human rights abuses by the warring parties against civilian populations across Syria, including airstrikes targeting civilian infrastructure and resulting in countless civilian deaths.

Pinheiro reminded the Human Rights Council of its role as “the voice of conscience in the face of atrocities,” urging Member States with influence over the warring parties in Syria to help bring about a political solution to end the conflict.

“The only way to end civilian suffering is to end this war,” he told the Council.

15 June 2017

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