In Syria, the regime’s bombings may constitute war crimes (02/26/2015) [fr]
Humanitarian situation in Syria - Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - 26 February 2015 - Security Council
I thank Ms. Kang Kyung-wha, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, and Mr. António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, for their briefings.
We would also like to reiterate our appreciation for the outstanding work done by the teams of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Office of the United Nations High agencies on the ground, as well as all their partners, who are carrying out their duties at risk to their lives. It is unacceptable that humanitarian workers in Syria are being targeted, attacked, abducted and killed: 72 workers have died since March 2011, and I would like to pay tribute to them.
As of 15 March, the conflict in Syria will have been going on for four years. Yet, in report after report, it is unfortunately clear that the humanitarian situation is deteriorating at an alarming rate and that there is no end in sight to the crisis. Despite the Council’s strong message to the Syrian regime and the armed groups, through the renewal of the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Syria and its reminder to the parties to the conflict of their obligation to respect international humanitarian law, the situation remains dire, as was forcefully alluded to by Ms. Kang and Mr. Guterres.
The statistics are unassailable: 220,000 dead, 12.2 million people in need of assistance, 7.6 million internally displaced persons, 3.8 million refugees, 4.8 million in areas that are hard to reach and 212,000 people besieged without the means to survive. Aerial bombardment, including the indiscriminate use of barrels bombs by Government forces, continue to claim civilian lives. The recent report by Human Rights Watch states that, since February 2014, the Government has bombed at least 450 sites in the region of Dara’a and 1,000 sites in Aleppo using barrels bombs. The parties to the conflict also continue to deliberately target civilian facilities and property, including infrastructure and vital services and hospitals, which is contrary to all the rules of humanitarian law, respect for human dignity and the most basic principles of humankind. The deliberate interference in humanitarian operations, the limits imposed on access to assistance throughout the country and the administrative obstruction by the regime only exacerbate the suffering of a battered people. This must stop. The obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian assistance to besieged areas, blocking cross-border access and the proliferation of bureaucratic obstacles are practices contrary to Security Council resolutions. Moreover, pursuant to resolution 2139 (2014), an end must be put to impunity to violations of international humanitarian law and human rights. Those responsible for such violations in Syria must be brought to justice.
The conclusions of the latest report (S/2015/124) on the implementation of resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014) and 2191 (2014) are clear. They call for immediate action by the parties to the conflict, including the lifting of the various sieges, which affect 212,000 people, removing obstacles to the delivery of medical and surgical equipment, ending the use of basic services, such as water and electricity, as a weapon of war and halting indiscriminate attacks against civilians, especially the use of barrels bombs. As we know, there are many obstacles. We must all collectively bring pressure to bear on the Syrian regime to immediately remove the obstacles to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people.
The current situation in Aleppo and Ghouta only shows that the regime remains deaf to the calls of the international community. The bombings carried out by Government forces in early February in Ghouta, east of Damascus, left more than 200 dead and 1,000 wounded. France condemned those bombings in the strongest way, while recalling that they violated the most basic principles of international humanitarian law and could constitute war crimes.
Whatever the measures taken to limit the cost of the conflict in human lives and reduce the people’s suffering, the humanitarian tragedy in Syria can end only with the emergence of a political solution. The conditions must therefore be created for a political solution. First of all, the regime must immediately cease aerial bombardment, the use of barrel bombs and indiscriminate shelling targeting civilians, which are prohibited by the resolutions of the Security Council. Secondly, our objective remains, more than ever, to promote a genuine political transition, based on the Geneva communiqué (S/2012/523, annex), and not a simple makeover for the regime. Through its brutal repression and rejection of any transition over the past four years, Bashar Al-Assad has fanned the flamed of extremism and chaos. As long as Bashar Al-Assad remains in power, ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front will continue to grow in strengthen. Renewed commitment on the part of the United Nations to a resumption of the political process is essential in this regard. The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, must, of course, play an important role in this regard.
A focused dialogue on the terms of a political transition, based on the Geneva communiqué must be resumed, bringing together the major parties concerned among the international community. We must also support the reconciliation initiatives of the various components of the Syrian Opposition around the Syrian National Coalition. Without a moderate Opposition that is strong and credible, no political transition will be able to succeed. To achieve any lasting improvement in the humanitarian situation in Syria will require a political solution that will itself require the decisive commitment of the Security Council.