‘No Words to Explain Callous Disregard for Human Life’ in Syria, Humanitarian Affairs Chief Tells Security Council, Urging Compliance with Its Key Text
In the 10 months since the adoption of resolution 2139 (2013), calls by the Security Council for the parties to conflict in Syria to end all violations of international humanitarian and human rights law had gone unheard, a top United Nations relief official told the 15-member body today, stressing that an estimated 200,000 people had been killed amid worsening violence.
“We have run out of words to fully explain the brutality, violence and callous disregard for human life which is a hallmark of this crisis,” said Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefing on the situation. Some 12.2 million Syrians now required assistance, an increase of 2.9 million people in 10 months, while almost half the population was displaced — more than 7.6 million internally and upwards of 3 million refugees in neighbouring countries.
To be sure, the Council had made a number of calls in resolution 2139 (2013), she said, including to end indiscriminate weapons use. Yet, the Government continued to use barrel bombs in densely populated areas — in Aleppo, Hama, Idlib and elsewhere. The resolution had condemned grave violations committed against children. Yet, children had been murdered, tortured and subjected to sexual violence by all parties to the conflict, with increasing reports of them being been killed, crucified or beheaded, particularly by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL). Reports of early and forced marriage were also increasing.
She said that despite the demand to end arbitrary detention, tens of thousands of civilians continued to be arbitrarily detained and tortured. The Council’s call for parties to respect the principle of medical neutrality had been met with deliberate and indiscriminate damage to hospitals, schools and infrastructure. Between the resolution’s adoption and the end of November, Physicians for Human Rights had documented 70 attacks on medical facilities — 60 of them by Government forces. Parties to the conflict also continued to use siege as a weapon of war, deliberately denying people access to food and medicine.
“Denial of medical assistance or the use of starvation as a weapon of war is prohibited by international law,” she said, recalling that, through resolution 2139 (2013), the Council had committed itself to the protection of the Syrian people. As such, she urged it to ensure that the parties fully complied with the text. They must stop their indiscriminate use of weapons in populated areas, protect children, lift the sieges, facilitate unhindered humanitarian access, end the “pervasive climate of impunity”, and — most importantly — find a political end to the conflict, she implored.
The meeting began at 3:09 p.m. and ended at 3:24 p.m.