Chair of UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria calls for investigations into possible war crimes
Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva: March 20 2022
The Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, Paulo Pinheiro, stated that the Syrian civilian population has experienced eleven years of crisis and conflict, noting that they are experiencing new levels of hardship, through a combination of escalating violence, a deteriorating economy, and humanitarian catastrophe.
Demands to review the impact of sanctions:
“More than half the population was displaced before the war, hundreds of thousands were killed, more than 100,000 are still missing or forcibly disappeared, and cities and infrastructure have been destroyed,” Pinheiro said in a statement addressed to the forty-ninth session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Syria, leaving medical facilities too weak to tackle Corona, more than 90% of the remaining population is now living in poverty, with 12 million people suffering from food insecurity, and 14.6 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
“More than half of the pre-war population has been displaced, hundreds of thousands have been killed, over 100,000 are still missing or forcibly disappeared, and Syria’s cities and infrastructure have been destroyed, leaving very weak medical facilities to face a pandemic. Over 90% of the remaining population is now living in poverty. Twelve million people are food insecure and an unprecedented 14.6 million are in need of humanitarian assistance,” Pinheiro said in a statement addressed to the forty-ninth session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
“As living conditions continue to deteriorate, we have called for a review of the impact of unilateral sanctions imposed on Syria. Despite humanitarian exemptions, much more is required to mitigate consequences on the daily lives of civilians brought about by over-compliance, causing shortages and impeding aid,” stressed Pinheiro.
Pinheiro pointed out that parts of the country have been subjected to fighting and bombing on the front lines, while violence against civilians is increasing across the country, pointing to the tragic situation in Daraa al-Balad, Idlib and western Aleppo.
Fear of expressing opinions:
Pinheiro stressed that people across the country, regardless of who controls them, live in fear of being arrested for expressing their opinions, belonging to a dissenting political party, reporting for the media or defending human rights.
Pinheiro also explained that practices of torture and ill-treatment during detention continue, and in some cases lead to deaths, while tens of thousands of Syrians are still being held incommunicado or forcibly disappeared, and government forces and other parties conceal the fate and whereabouts of detainees, leaving family members in pain, exposing them to extortion for information or danger of arrest when searching for missing loved ones.
Deportation and refoulement of refugees:
The head of the investigation committee in Syria clarified that some countries are deporting Syrian refugees on the pretext that some parts of Syria are now safe, but the Syrian conflict is not over yet and is escalating in some places, with armed actors preying on segments of the population. While some may wish to return voluntarily and have the right to do so, the targeting of individuals based on perceived or actual affiliation persist across the country, regardless of who is in control.
Calls for investigations into possible war crimes:
“On the accountability front, as the systemic failures in investigations into possible war crimes by the United States-led coalition were widely highlighted by the media last year, we are repeating our recommendation to all parties to conduct credible, independent and impartial investigations into incidents entailing civilian casualties in which their forces were involved. It is essential to ensure that those responsible for violations are held accountable,” said Pinheiro.