Amid reports of ‘slaughter’ in Aleppo, UN stresses that civilians must be protected


UNITED NATIONS, Dec 13 (APP): Expressing alarm over reports of  atrocities against a large number of civilians, including women and children, in recent hours in Aleppo, the United Nations chief and the organization’s top human rights official have underlined the obligation of all parties to the conflict to protect civilians and to abide by international humanitarian and human rights law.

This is particularly the responsibility of the Syrian Government and
its allies,” a statement issued by the office of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

“The Secretary-General has instructed his Special Envoy for Syria
[Steffan De Mistura] to follow up urgently with the parties concerned,” it added.

Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein  ‘pleaded’ with the international community ‘to heed the cries’ of the women, men and children being terrorized and slaughtered in Aleppo and to take urgent steps to ensure that tens of thousands of people who have fled, surrendered or been captured are treated in line with international law.

“The crushing of Aleppo, the immeasurably terrifying toll on its  people, the bloodshed, the wanton slaughter of men, women and children, the destruction, and we are nowhere near the end of this cruel conflict,” High Commissioner Zeid said in a news release issued the UN human rights arm (OHCHR).

“What can happen next, if the international community continues to
collectively wring its hands, can be much more dangerous,” he warned.

According to the release, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) has
received credible reports of scores of civilians being killed, either by intense bombardment or summary execution by pro-Government forces.

“Dozens of bodies reportedly litter the streets of a number of east
Aleppo neighbourhoods, with residents unable to retrieve them due to the intense bombardment and fear of being shot,” the release said, adding: “Government forces and their allies are also reportedly entering civilian homes and killing people.”

The release also stated that according to reports from multiple sources,
pro-Government forces killed at least 82 civilians, including 11 women and 13 children, in the Bustan al-Qasr, al-Ferdous, al-Kallaseh, and al-Saleheen neighbourhoods yesterday.

OHCHR further cautioned that thousands of people who remain in areas
under the control of armed groups are at risk of grave violations, including detentions, torture and killings.

Emphasizing the Syrian Government’s obligation to protect the right to
life of all civilians as well as that of fighters who have surrendered, or laid down their weapons, are sick or wounded or otherwise hors de combat (no longer participating in hostilities), Zeid said that it must provide medical assistance to all sick and wounded, civilians and fighters alike, “without any discrimination.”

However, according to OHCHR, “reports suggest that of those fighters
who have fled, some were reportedly caught and killed on the spot while others were arrested.”

High Commissioner Zeid further underlined that in the absence of
independent monitors on the ground and “given the terrible record of arbitrary detention and torture in Syria even prior to the start of this conflict,” urgent measures must be taken to ensure the protection of the people who have fled Aleppo.

“The world is watching Aleppo, and we are documenting the
violations being committed against its people, with the firm conviction that one day those who are responsible will be held to account. We must ensure that this happens. The hellish suffering to which the people of Syria are being subjected must stop,” he concluded.

Last Friday, the UN General Assembly, the universal body comprising
all 193 Members States of the UN had expressed “outrage” at the escalation of violence in Syria, particularly in Aleppo and had demanded an immediate and complete end to all attacks on civilians as well as an end to all sieges in war-ravaged country.