GENEVA - The ever-escalating violence in Syria has killed more than 250,000 people and forced more than five million to flee the country, according to a report delivered to the U.N. Human Rights Council on Tuesday, the 5-year anniversary of the conflict’s start.
"The survivors of this brutal war are the maimed, the displaced, the women and girls who endured sexual violence,” said Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, which compiled the report. “No corner of the country has been left unscathed. ... Children have been disproportionately affected by the war. The hundreds of thousands of Syrian children not attending school are already being labeled ‘the lost generation.’"
But for the first time, Pinheiro noted, hope is in sight.
He said he is heartened by the cessation of hostilities agreement, which has brought down the level of fighting in the country and made the resumption of peace talks possible.
Despite improvements, the commission's report documents violations committed by all the warring parties — violations that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The peace negotiations must not ignore the crimes, Pinheiro said, adding that human rights and accountability issues must remain present at the negotiation table.
"When we speak with the victims whose lives have been torn apart by this conflict, their message is clear,” Pinheiro said. “They want peace and they demand justice. The commission strongly supports credible international and domestic criminal proceedings as a means of fighting impunity."
The Syrian ambassador, however, was unmoved by the appeal. He accused the commission of being biased, of rehashing old accusations and of relying upon false testimonies.
The commission, he said, has ignored documented information provided by the government of Syria to U.N. agencies, which told a different story of thousands of Syrians victimized by foreign-backed terrorism.