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Civilians Remain Primary Victims of Syria’s Conflict

FILE - Displaced Syrians gather in a field near a camp for displaced people in the village of Atme, in the jihadist-held northern Idlib province, May 8, 2019.

The Commission of Inquiry on the human rights situation in Syria reports Syria’s civilian population remains the primary victim of more than seven years of conflict. In a report submitted to the U.N. human rights council Tuesday, the Commission accuses everyone involved in Syria’s conflict of failure to uphold international humanitarian law and human rights standards.

In an impassioned presentation, chair of the Commission of Inquiry, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, told the Council the violent conflict in Syria is not over, nor are its devastating effects on the Syrian people.

Since conflict erupted in 2011, he notes more than 5.6 million refugees have fled across borders and another 6.6 million people within the country have become internally displaced. To this day, he said people continue to be uprooted and forced to flee from violence, air strikes, rocket attacks and a multitude of other atrocities.

For example, he noted the recent upsurge of fighting between pro-Government forces and terrorist groups in northwest Syria has led to widespread destruction of health facilities, schools, markets and camps for internally displaced people.

“These attacks are regularly marked by the use of indiscriminate weapons such as forbidden munitions, including cluster bombs and incendiary weapons. The latter have destroyed vital food producing resources, including hectares of crops and agricultural equipment, resulting in substantial harvest losses for an all too beleaguered population,” said Pinheiro.

Throughout this cruel war, Pinheiro said women and girls have been disproportionately affected by rampant sexual and gender-based violence, child marriage and exploitation. He said children are deprived of basic food, medical and other essential supplies. They are denied the possibility of getting an education.

FILE - A boy carries food aid given by UN's World Food Program in Raqqa, Syria, April 26, 2018.
FILE - A boy carries food aid given by UN's World Food Program in Raqqa, Syria, April 26, 2018.

He called for greater attention to the plight of the unlawfully detained, missing and those forcibly disappeared. He said it is intolerable that the fate of tens of thousands remains unknown. He said this situation requires the urgent attention of the Syrian Government and Member States.

Syria’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Hussam al-Din Ala, lashed out at the Commission, accusing it of distorting Syria’s image and of duplicity. He dismissed charges that Syrian forces indiscriminately attack hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure as false. On the contrary, he said his Government takes all measures to protect the civilian population.