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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Syria Out of Media Spotlight, but War and Suffering Continue

By Lisa Schlein July 07, 2021

A U.N. panel of experts warns that while Syria's 10 year long civil conflict may have fallen off the world's media spotlight, the fighting and suffering of millions of people is far from over. The three-member Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria has submitted its latest report to the UN human rights council.

Syria no longer is subject to the wholesale killings of civilians, to chemical weapons attacks, to the carpet bombing of cities and other atrocities that have ravaged this once vibrant land. Nevertheless, the three-member Commission of Inquiry warns the war continues in earnest in some places and simmers in others, while civilians are abused with impunity.

Additionally, Commission chair Paulo Pinheiro says Syria's civil strife has long ago ceased to be a home-made struggle between the Assad government and its domestic opponents. He says Syria is up for grabs by powerful countries who seek to exert influence in the region.

"Five international armies, their proxies and a plethora of other non-State actors continue to fight in Syria to this day, including the air forces of the Russian Federation, the United States and Israel. Civilians must navigate through all of these actors and their conflicting agendas as they simply attempt to go about their lives," he said.

The most critical situation is in Idlib Governorate in northwest Syria. Pinheiro says more than 2.7 million internally displaced people there are living in desperate conditions. He says they are at risk of violence from the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham terrorist group and Turkish and Syrian troops.

The Commission report describes unstable conditions in many parts of the country where improvised explosive devices are killing and maiming scores of civilians. It documents rampant violations of human rights such as arbitrary detention of civilians, including women and children, torture, forced conscription of child soldiers, assassination of medical workers, and the looting and appropriation of property.

In an otherwise bleak landscape, Pinheiro says one of the few potentially positive developments to occur is movement in the Security Council toward the establishment of a mechanism on the missing. He says tracking the fate and whereabouts of tens of thousands of Syrians who are missing or in detention is a priority.

"A crucial element of this endeavor is for the Syrian state, and other actors detaining people, to provide the names, whereabouts, and access to those they are holding and immediately release all persons detained arbitrarily so they may reunite with their kin without further delay," he said.

Syria's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Hussam Edin Aala, said the report was riddled with misinformation and lies. He said Council resolutions made politically motivated accusations against Syrian authorities while ignoring the crimes and practices of what he called the Turkish and American occupation forces.

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