UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday reiterated calls for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court as he stressed that accountability for serious violations is a requirement under international law and central to achieving sustainable peace in the country.
The Assad regime, Iranian militias and Russian forces have committed the gravest violations in Syria. The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria earlier confirmed the Assad regime’s responsibility for chemical attacks on Syrian civilians, including the April 4 sarin attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun. Thousands of smuggled photos also revealed widespread torture of detainees in the prisons of the Assad regime. Other violations also include the brutal bombardment of cities, popular markets and densely populated areas.
“In eastern Ghutah, in particular, air strikes, shelling and ground offensives intensified after the adoption of the resolution and have claimed many hundreds of civilian lives,” said the UN Secretary-General in his monthly report to UN Security Council on the implementation of resolution 2401.
The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, lambasted the UN Security Council following the failed ceasefire in Syria. She accused the Assad regime and its Russia and Iranian allies of prolonging civilian suffering in the rebel-held eastern Ghouta.
Haley told the Security Council in New York that Tuesday “should be a day of shame” for the organization after a 30-day ceasefire elapsed as fighting continued in Syria.
“History will not be kind when it judges the effectiveness of this council in relieving the suffering of the Syrian people,” Haley said, adding that residents of eastern Ghouta have endured years-long siege and starvation at the hands of the Assad regime and its allies.
Haley said that 1,600 people had “died on our watch” in eastern Ghouta since the 15-member council unanimously adopted a ceasefire resolution on February 24 following negotiations with Russia. The Assad regime had “made a mockery” of the ceasefire, she added.
French Ambassador Francois Delattre meanwhile said that nothing could justify such a breach of international humanitarian law by the Assad regime and its allies. He noted that not a single convoy had been authorized to reach eastern Ghouta since 15 March, stressing that “that may have constituted crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
Tephanus Abraham Blok, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, said that “in eastern Ghouta, the Syrian regime and its allies, including the Russian Federation, had trapped hundreds of thousands of civilians, relentlessly continuing their offensive. Families were seeing their homes destroyed, their loved ones killed and their dignity shattered.”
Blok, whose country presides over the UN Security Council for the month of March, urged the Council to take urgent action to protect civilians in eastern Ghouta and improve humanitarian access to the area.
Citing resolution 2401 (2018), the Dutch FM said it was humiliating that the Council had been unable to enforce basic obligations under international humanitarian law. He called on all parties to implement Council decisions, stressing the need to strengthen resolution 2401 (2018) and end the culture of impunity.
Last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein, called on the UN Security Council to refer human rights violations being committed by the Assad regime and its allied militias to the International Criminal Court.
The UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2401 on February 24 demanding a 30-day ceasefire and the lifting of the sieges. The Assad regime and its allies have since then openly flouted the resolution. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)