UN rights chief sees war crimes in Eastern Ghouta

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on March 2 warned Syria that air-strikes, shelling and use of toxic agents in Eastern Ghouta likely constitute war crimes. Zeid asserts that the citizens of Eastern Ghouta are enduring every kind of deprivation, with no aid getting through since November, except for one single convoy of humanitarian aid that managed to reach just 7,200 people, of the hundreds of thousands in the area. “As a direct result, thousands upon thousands of children in Eastern Ghouta are acutely malnourished and profoundly traumatized. And now they are facing one of the most pitiless onslaughts in this long-running and brutal civil war.”

Six days ago, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2401 (2018) (PDF), which requires all parties to the Syrian conflict to immediately cease hostilities for at least 30 consecutive days, to enable the delivery of humanitarian assistance and evacuation of the critically sick and wounded. Despite the resolution, civilians in Eastern Ghouta have reported that airstrikes and shelling continue.

Zeid states that Syria must be referred to the International Criminal Court.

“Attempts to thwart justice, and shield these criminals, are disgraceful. I also urge all States to greatly increase their support for the International, Impartial and Independent mechanism set up last year. The IIIM’s mandate focuses on ensuring that information about serious crimes is collected, analyzed and preserved, with a view to furnishing dossiers for future prosecutions.”

Zeid said that such process will prevent further horrific human suffering and increase the certainty that justice will one day be done.

From Jurist, March 2. Used with permission.

Note: Previous Security Council resolutions have been defied by the Assad regime. Russia has repeatedly vetoed an investigation into Syrian chemical attacks. Despite mounting accusations of genocide, no high-ranking member of the Assad regime has yet faced international charges.

  1. UN body claims ‘overwhelming’ evidence of war crimes in Syria

    The UN body officially known as the "International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011" (or IIIM) has issued a report (PDF) stating that they have compiled an "overwhelming volume of…videos and other images" representing evidence of atrocities committed by all sides in the Syria war.

    The report states that the volume of material gathered, which includes information on the role played by social media during the war, is "unprecedented in any other accountability process with respect to international crimes to date" and sets forth a vision for prosecuting individuals responsible for the heinous crimes committed during the conflict.

    The IIIM, established in December 2016 and led by former France Judge Catherine Marchi-Uhel, is charged with "developing a methodology and a strategy for best facilitating the accountability process with respect to the Syrian Arab Republic." (Jurist, March 29)