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Foreign Enablers Continue to Fuel Syria's Conflict, UN Says

FILE - Children are seen at a displaced persons camp in Idlib province, Syria, Dec. 1, 2020.
FILE - Children are seen at a displaced persons camp in Idlib province, Syria, Dec. 1, 2020.

U.N. investigators call for greater international action to end the impunity prevailing in Syria, which is hindering efforts to find a durable peace for the country’s decade-long conflict. The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria has submitted its latest report to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

A cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey last year in northwestern Syria’s Idlib province, the last rebel-held territory in the country, has resulted in a significant drop in hostilities. However, commission chair Paulo Pinheiro says Syria remains a tinderbox. He says the cease-fire that has made little difference in the lives of millions of civilians.

“As we speak, over six million Syrian civilians, including 2.5 million children, live in internal displacement with limited access to basic human necessities, in cities reduced to rubble, subject to predation by a constellation of armed actors, and in fear of being arrested, tortured and killed,” Pinheiro said.

The commission’s report accuses the Syrian government of widespread arbitrary arrests, torture and the summary execution of prisoners while in detention. It says many of the violations may constitute both war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It says other warring parties, including the Syrian terrorist organization Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and Islamic State militants, have perpetrated similar war crimes in their detention facilities.

Pinheiro said intervention by numerous U.N. member states over the years has fueled the conflict and dramatically worsened the country’s already dire economic situation. He noted millions of people continue to lack basic humanitarian aid, including food, water, health care and education.

“Military solutions in Syria by all parties have led to a decade of death, denial and destruction. Opportunistic foreign funding, arms and other support to the warring parties poured fuel on this fire that the world has been content to watch burn,” Pinheiro said.

Reacting to the report, Syria’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Hussam Edin Aala, said it, like others over the past 10 years, is full of misinformation. For a decade, he said his government has been fighting to protect Syrians from terrorist groups, a fact the commission of inquiry continues to ignore.

He also called the report biased and says his government denies the accusations leveled at it. He said security in most parts of Syria has been restored, rebuilding has begun, and internally displaced people are being returned to their homes of origin.