UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday warned that the use of starvation as a weapon in Syria amounts to a war crime and a violation of international humanitarian law at a press conference in New York following remarks to the UN General Assembly highlighting his 2016 priorities.
The UN chief described the Assad regime’s use of barrel bombs “not just the inevitable fallout of armed conflict,” but an “assault on our common humanity.”
“In recent days, shocking scenes and stories have emerged from Madaya, Syria, as humanitarian workers finally gained access after being blocked since October. The town has been the victim of deliberate starvation,” the UN chief added.
“Let me be clear: the use of food as a weapon of war is a war crime,” Ki-Moon stressed.
Ban Ki-Moon also said that the Assad regime “has shown complete and utter disregard for Madaya’s people. Some 400 of these men, women and children were in such dire state from malnutrition or other conditions that they are in danger of dying. They need immediate medical attention, including through possible evacuation.”
The UN chief raised questions over what would happen to those who would be left behind in the famine-stricken town. “They can eat today, but they fear another stretch of months in destitution if the combatants renew the siege,” he warned.
In a letter sent by to the UN Security Council on January 8, the Syrian Coalition stressed that “the use of starvation as a tool of war is a war crime, for which the Assad regime must be held accountable.”
The Syrian Coalition’s letter added that “more should be done to apply pressure on the regime, including through renewed look at the feasibility of drone-delivered air drops by those states currently conducting air operations against ISIS in Syria.”
The letter also called upon the UN Security Council to ensure immediate, unconditional, sustainable and unfettered access for UN and relief agencies to Madaya and all the besieged areas across Syria.
The Syrian Coalition also called on the UN Security Council to “condemn in the strongest possible terms the Assad regime’s deliberate starvation of innocent civilians in Madaya, and make clear that starvation is not a tool to be employed at the Assad regime’s discretion.”
Furthermore, the letter stressed that “the failure to enforce UN Security Council resolutions only encourages those who starve civilians into submission.” (Source: Syrian Coalition + Agencies)