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Rights Experts Call for End to Syrian Killing Fields

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - Migrants cry and walk towards Gevgelija in Macedonia after crossing Greece's border, Macedonia.

FILE - Migrants cry and walk towards Gevgelija in Macedonia after crossing Greece's border, Macedonia.

U.N. experts warn that Syria’s four-year-old war has spilled far beyond its borders and the world cannot ignore the plight of millions of refugees seeking asylum from the conflict. The U.N. International Commission of Inquiry on Syria is appealing for greater protection of refugees and for urgent action to find a political solution to this tragedy.

In its report, the U.N. commission presents a particularly pessimistic view of the increasingly complex and bloody war in Syria. The four human rights experts in the group say all of Syria’s disparate warring factions are committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations every day.

Commission Chairman Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said civilians are suffering unimaginably as the world stands by and watches.

“Without stronger efforts to bring parties to the peace table, ready to compromise, current trends suggest that the Syrian conflict — and the killing and destruction it wreaks — will carry on for the foreseeable future,” said Pinheiro.

Indescribable suffering

The reports findings draw on more than 335 interviews with victims and eyewitnesses in and outside Syria during the first half of this year.

The commissioners, who have just returned from the region, say they are shocked by what they call the indescribable suffering expressed by the victims in their testimonies. They say they were deeply moved by accounts of children who were injured in the midst of battle or who were recruited and forced to fight by all warring parties.

The report describes indiscriminate and relentless attacks against civilians by all sides. It goes into chilling detail about the so-called Islamic State’s barbaric treatment of the communities it controls. It describes the brutality against ethnic and religious communities, particularly Yazidis, where women are held in sexual slavery.

Nearly 8 million Syrians are internally displaced, while more than 4 million others have sought refuge in neighboring countries. As people run out of options for asylum in the region, Pinheiro said many Syrians are fleeing in search of protection, especially across the Mediterranean Sea and into Europe.

“The predicament of the Syrian people is exacerbated by inadequate response from the international community, at a time when urgent and decisive action is most needed," Pinheiro said. "If you compare the numbers — the numbers are 250,000 people have been asking for refuge in Europe, compared with the 4 million in the regional countries.”

The commissioners say legal channels of migration must be developed. They say such an approach could include measures such as expanded resettlement programs, temporary humanitarian admission, flexible visa policies, family reunification, and sponsorship plans.

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