UN inquiry team warns economic crisis in Syria, surge in fighting


Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau

UNITED NATIONS, 13th Sept. UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria on Tuesday warned of economic crisis and said that the “dire needs” of Syrians have been systematically ignored in last 12 years of brutal conflict in the country.

UN Human Rights Council in its latest report on Syria found that attacks on civilians, escalating fighting, economic decline and human rights violations persist, despite the country’s re-admission to the League of Arab States.

The Inquiry Chair, Paulo Pinheiro said that the war in Syria is a “monument to the failure of diplomacy”.

Mr Pinheiro called on all parties to the conflict to cease the attacks on civilians after the recent wave of demonstrations.

He urged the government in Damascus to respond positively to Syrians’ legitimate aspirations and rights before the country “plunges deeper into escalating violence and economic decline”.

Mr. Piheiro reiterated the need for “unilateral coercive measures” imposed by the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Switzerland from 2011 onwards, to be reviewed, and called for the easing of sanctions since the earthquake on 6 February 2023 to be maintained.

He pointed out that at the time of the earthquake, the Commission received “multiple reports of aid diversion, extortion and corruption,” and documented “obstruction and interference in aid delivery” in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.

The “Government and other parties needless hindered life-saving aid” and “no party answered our call for a cease-fire. They continue shelling and they continue the war”, Mr Pinheiro said.

Mr. Pinheiro cited the report that a single airstrike on 25 June killed or injured over 37 civilians at an outdoor vegetable market in Idlib that should have been observable to the offensive forces.

He added that of the 15 attacks documented in the earthquake-affected area, several may constitute war crimes.

According to the report, humanitarian operations were affected by suspected Israeli airstrikes that rendered key transport infrastructure inoperable.

Commissioner Lynn Welchman said “These instances, as well as the failure of the UN Security Council to reach a consensus in July to extend cross-border aid deliveries via the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing, stand as a stark reminder of how hostilities, politicization and fragmentation in Syria harm civilians and deprive them of much-needed assistance.”

She called for a thorough review of the failures of the earthquake response.”

Welchman urged warring parties and the international community to ensure that cross-border humanitarian assistance can continue at the necessary scale and in a principled, needs-based and sustainable manner”.

OCHA found that hostilities, including shelling, have displaced some 5,300 families, over 26,500 people, between 1 and 9 September.

The clashes in northeastern Aleppo forced 4,600 families from their homes and there are reports of overcrowding in camps and villages, with some families resorting to sleeping in the open. As of 9 September, at least five people were killed, with 22 others, including 11 children, injured.

The situation in Deir-ez-Zor Governorate in northeast Syria is calm, hostilities since 27 August have reportedly resulted in 69 deaths and 96 injuries.

Over 6,700 families have been displaced according to Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

The Commission documents how recent weeks have seen increased conflict in greater Idlib, displacing thousands, and killing dozens in Deir-Ezzor, as well as an outbreak of large-scale protests called for economic, social, civil and political rights in Government controlled-areas, notably Suweida.

It warned that beyond the frontlines, the safe return of Syrian refugees is implausible with cases of ill-treatment by Syrian security forces, including some blackmailed for their release.

The inquiry commission noted several refugees, including children, have gone missing.

It stated that arbitrarily detaining, torturing, forcibly disappearing and executing civilians in areas under their control is a war crime and crime against humanity and called for the release of all persons arbitrarily detained in Syria.

Mr. Pinheiro noted that families seeking clarity on the fate of detained, disappeared and missing loved ones had received “long-awaited welcome news” following the establishment of the Independent Institution on Missing Persons in Syria by the General Assembly in June.

Commissioner of the Inquiry, Hanny Megally described the experience of truffle gatherers in central Syria that “We’re seeing an increase, [in] people fighting over economic needs and survival and that results in violence, abductions.”

He added that people fighting over the truffle market is “an example of the country descending into that state of insecurity.”

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