NEW YORK, 25 October 2021 - Addressing the Third Committee of the General Assembly today, the Chair of the UN Syria Commission of Inquiry, Paulo Pinheiro, warned the international community that while some might be thinking the conflict is ending, the facts on the ground paint another picture.
"This is not a time for anyone to be thinking that Syria is safe, for its refugees to return home. Instead, we are seeing an upsurge in fighting and violence," Mr. Pinheiro told the Third Committee.
"As we speak, millions of civilians continue to be condemned to war, terror, and grief. Many of those displaced have seen their properties destroyed or seized by the Government, armed groups or terrorist groups -- they have little left to return to and little prospects for their livelihoods," Mr. Pinheiro elaborated.
The Commission highlighted a general pattern of escalation in recent months across the country, described in its latest report to the Human Rights Council.
The lull in hostilities in northwest Syria, brought about by the March 2020 ceasefire is unravelling - with medical facilities, markets and residential areas being hit by aerial and ground attacks -- while he UN-designated terrorist organization Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham continues to abuse rights with impunity, including by arbitrarily detaining media activists and journalists, including women.
Parts of southwest Syria have experienced the return of fighting and siege-like tactics not seen since before 2018. In Dar'a Al-Balad, tens of thousands of civilians were trapped without sufficient access to food nor health care until last month, while also forcing thousands of men, women and children to flee.
In the northern Afrin and Ra's al-Ayn regions of Aleppo, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices kill and maim civilians, while indiscriminate shelling has increased this summer. Factions within the opposition-linked "Syrian National Army" continue to deprive civilians of their liberty, at times torturing them in detention.
The northeast of Syria has been seeing increased attacks by Da'esh, targeted killings of tribal leaders, and mounting discontent and protests, during which several protesters were shot dead by elements of the Kurdish-led "Syrian Democratic Forces."
The Commission also drew attention to the plight of up to 40,000 children in Al Hawl and other displacement-turned-detention camps across northeast Syria, where they have been unlawfully deprived of their liberty for several years.
"Most are under 12 years old. Nearly half are Iraqi. 7,800 come from nearly 60 other countries. How many more times will we have to call on Member States and local authorities to bring their children home?" said the UN Syria Commission Chair Paulo Pinheiro, adding that "these children are victims first and foremost. They need protection, education, a real childhood. Punishing children for the crimes of their parents cannot be justified."
Addressing one of the biggest agonies facing Syrians, the Commission reminded the General Assembly about the hundreds of thousands of Syrians wake up each morning, worrying about the fate and whereabouts of missing loved ones.
"We respectfully ask the distinguished representative of the Syrian Arab Republic, how much longer must they wait for your Government to let them know?" asked Pinheiro, stressing that Syrian authorities should allow the detainees to contact their families and to receive visits by independent monitors, and release prisoners who are sick, infirm or elderly.
"The tens of thousands disappeared and missing represents a national trauma," said Commissioner Hanny Megally, pointing out that families of the missing on all sides in Syria have come together urging the international community to help them and to facilitate an independent initiative with an international mandate to coordinate and consolidate information regarding missing persons.
"Will we keep them waiting or will Member States act now in response to their plea?", Mr. Pinheiro, the Chair of the UN Syria Commission asked.
Read the full statement to the General Assembly, Third Committee on 25.10.2021 here
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, which comprises Mr. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro (Chair), and Mr. Hanny Megally (Commissioner) was established ten years ago, on 12 September 2011. It has been mandated by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate and record all violations of international law since March 2011 in the Syrian Arab Republic.
More information, including the Commission's reports, can be found on the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic's webpage.
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