[14 June 2017] – Since the start of June, over 70,000 Syrian civilians in the southern governorate of Daraa have been the targets of a brutal military campaign by the Assad regime, with backing from Russian warplanes, Hezbollah, and other Iranian militias. Activists and human rights monitors on the ground have documented evidence of indiscriminate attacks against civilians and medical facilities, including the use of incendiary weapons – in clear violation of international law. In parallel, the head of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria has raised serious concerns over the “staggering loss of life” in recent days as a result of US airstrikes in Raqqa.
“The onslaught on Daraa, which has so far killed many civilians, shows once again that the Syrian regime is only committed to a military solution. This undermines the ongoing efforts led by the UN Special Envoy in pursuit of a credible political solution and creates serious doubt over any upcoming negotiations. If peace talks are to have any hope of success, the international community must act to stop the massacre in Daraa,” says Husam Alkatlaby, Executive Director of the Violations Documentation Center.
Alkatlaby continues: “But let us also not forget the plight of civilians in Raqqa. As human rights defenders, we have a duty to call for the protection of all civilians. This is why since the start of the revolution civilian protection has been at the forefront of our calls to the international community. Only by ending all indiscriminate attacks can a sustainable political process begin.”
“The credibility of the international community is at stake,” says President of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, Mazen Darwish. “Daraa is part of the de-escalation zones agreed by Russia, Iran and Turkey last month, under the observation of the UN Special Envoy. It is clear that any such agreement that has Iran and Russia as its guarantors is not viable and does not provide millions of Syrians the protection that they urgently need. This situation only continues to fuel the extremist narrative that threatens global security.”
Syrian civil society organisations are calling on the international community to:
- Ensure credible and impartial UN-led monitoring for any ceasefire agreement across all of Syria, with enforced consequences for violators;
- Secure urgent humanitarian aid delivery and relief to civilians trapped in Daraa city and across Syria, including the evacuation of those in urgent need of medical assistance;
- Guarantee accountability for all perpetrators of war crimes by pursuing all possible accountability options in Syria, including the establishment of an ad-hoc tribunal by the UN General Assembly.