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Statement by the Commission of Inquiry on Syria on the situation in Idlib

12 September 2018


GENEVA (12 September 2018) - The Commission of Inquiry demands that all parties to the conflict and those states who support them do everything in their power to prevent a massacre in Idlib. The best way of doing this is to find a political solution. Barring that, all must be done to adhere to human rights and international humanitarian law obligations.
Conflicting parties must cease and refrain from the future use of indiscriminate weapons or tactics to target thousands of fighters interspersed among 2.9 million civilians, including one million children. Conditions are dire for many of the civilian women, men, and children in Idlib, especially for those who have already been displaced from other parts of the country and for those living in designated terrorist controlled territory. Indiscriminate attacks, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and peppering the ground with explosive remnants of war will serve only to further erode the human rights and humanitarian situation in Idlib.

What is needed now is increased humanitarian assistance for those in need and constructive efforts to protect all civilians, in particular the most vulnerable among them. Parties to this conflict have clear and unambiguous obligations to spare the civilian population from the scourge of war, and the presence of designated terrorists or legitimate military targets does nothing to diminish such obligations. The Commission further reminds Governments which support parties to the conflict that, even where they are not directly engaged in hostilities, their obligations under Common Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions “to respect and to ensure respect for the [Conventions] in all circumstances” remain firm, and as such they have the obligation to use their influence to deter unlawful behaviour by their allies. It is up to parties to the conflict and the Governments that support such parties to protect the civilian population in Idlib and across Syria. The laws universally accepted by Governments to protect in situations of armed conflict tell them clearly how to accomplish this goal. All that is required is the will to follow the law to avert greater catastrophe in Idlib.     


The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, which comprises Mr. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro (Chair), Ms. Karen Koning AbuZayd, and Mr. Hanny Megally has been mandated by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate and record all violations of international law since March 2011 in the Syrian Arab Republic.