News / Middle East

UN Rights Chief: Syrians Suffering From War

A boy rides a bicycle in front of damaged buildings in Homs, Syria, May 24, 2013.
A boy rides a bicycle in front of damaged buildings in Homs, Syria, May 24, 2013.
Lisa Schlein
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said the international community has failed to protect the victims of Syria’s civil war.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay addressed the Human Rights Council on Syria at the United Nations in Geneva, September 10, 2012 file photo.UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay addressed the Human Rights Council on Syria at the United Nations in Geneva, September 10, 2012 file photo.
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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay addressed the Human Rights Council on Syria at the United Nations in Geneva, September 10, 2012 file photo.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay addressed the Human Rights Council on Syria at the United Nations in Geneva, September 10, 2012 file photo.
In an opening speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the U.N.’s top human rights official, Navi Pillay, said civilians are bearing the brunt of the Syrian conflict.  

“A humanitarian, political and social disaster is already upon us, and what looms is truly a nightmare… Yet the international community seems unable to make a strong commitment to resolving the crisis," she said. "I urge states to make every effort to forge an end to this humanitarian disaster, for it sometimes seems that we can do little more than cry out in the darkness and try to count the dead.”  

The United Nations estimates more than 70,000 people have been killed since fighting in Syria began 26 months ago.

Some five million people have become internally displaced and more than 1.5 million Syrian civilians have become refugees in neighboring countries.

Syrian Refugees by Country

Lebanon: 511,418
Jordan: 472,631
Turkey: 376,640
Iraq: 155,139
Egypt: 77,169

Source: UNHCR
Pillay said about one-third of Syria’s population of 22 million are in need of international aid. She said both the government and opposition rebels are committing human rights violations.

“These war crimes and crimes against humanity cannot be allowed to go unpunished," she said. "We must make it clear to both the government and the armed opposition groups that there will be consequences for those responsible. And the world must take action to end this terrible conflict.” 

Besides Syria, Pillay said she is alarmed by ongoing ethnic and religious violence in other regions, including attacks on Muslim communities in Burma’s Rakhine State.  

Pillay said she will be presenting reports on the human rights situation in Mali and in South Sudan during the council’s three-week session. And, she will be sending a fact-finding mission to the Central African Republic, which, she said is teetering on the verge of anarchy.

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