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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

'Outraged' UN Member States demand immediate halt to attacks against civilians in Syria

9 December 2016 – Expressing "outrage" at the escalation of violence in Syria, particularly war-battered Aleppo, the General Assembly – the universal body comprising all 193 United Nations Members States – today adopted a resolution demanding an immediate and complete end to all attacks on civilians as well as an end to all sieges in war-ravaged country.

In a resolution adopted by a vote of 122 in favour, 13 against and 36 abstentions, the Assembly also expressed grave concern at the continued deterioration of the devastating humanitarian situation in the country and demanded "rapid, safe, sustained, unhindered and unconditional humanitarian access throughout the country for UN […] and all humanitarian actors."

Action in the Assembly comes just days after the UN Security Council failed to adopt a similar resolution demanding a ceasefire in Aleppo, as two of its permanent members, China and Russia, casts their vetoes.

Earlier today, the UN human rights wing warned that there may currently be around 100,000 civilians in areas under the control of armed opposition groups in eastern Aleppo, with another 30,000 believed to have fled heavy bombardment to areas under Government control.

The Assembly's measure stressed the need that all parties to the conflict fully and immediately implement all provisions of various Security Council resolutions concerning the situation in the country, and underscored that all parties must "take all appropriate steps to protect civilians and persons hors de combat, including members of ethnic, religious and confessional communities."

To that end, it noted "the primary responsibility to protect [Syria's] population lies with the Syrian authorities."

In the resolution, led by Canada, the General Assembly expressed outrage at extensive and persistent violations of international humanitarian and international human rights laws, especially through shelling and aerial bombardment, use of chemical and other prohibited weapons, and use of siege and starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, that have caused profound suffering and loss of life and created conditions "conducive to the rise and spread of terrorism."

It also expressed deep concerns at presence of terrorist organizations in the country and condemned attacks and violations of human rights and humanitarian law perpetrated by them.

"Terrorism in all its forms constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security and that any acts of terrorism are unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed," it reaffirmed.

Further, highlighting that the only sustainable solution to the current crisis in the country is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, the General Assembly reaffirmed its support for a credible, inclusive and non-sectarian Syrian-led political process, involving women and civil society.

The Assembly also emphasized the need to "ensure accountability for crimes involving violations of international law […] some of which may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, committed in Syria since March 2011, through appropriate, fair and independent investigations and prosecutions at the domestic or international level."

It further urged the Security Council to "exercise its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security by taking additional measures to address the crisis in the Syria, in particular the devastating humanitarian crisis, and stresses in this regard Article 11 of the UN Charter."

Since the crisis erupted in 2011, the humanitarian situation in the country has taken a downward spiral with more than 13.5 million Syrians now in need to humanitarian assistance and nearly 6.3 million people internally displaced.

More than four million Syrians have been driven out of the country as refugees, including hundreds of thousands in Europe.

The conflict has also killed hundreds of thousands of people, including many children. Almost a million people (974,080) remain trapped in besieged areas and nearly 3.9 million people in hard-to-reach areas.

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