UN rights chief slams Syrian regime's E. Ghouta attacks


The UN human rights chief slammed the Syrian regime on Wednesday for its "legally and morally unsustainable" attempts to justify attacks on civilians in Eastern Ghouta.

Speaking at the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said: "Recent attempts to justify indiscriminate, brutal attacks on hundreds of thousands of civilians by the need to combat a few hundred fighters as in Eastern Ghouta, are legally, and morally, unsustainable.

"The conflict in Syria entered a new phase of horror. In addition to the staggering bloodshed in Eastern Ghouta, which was discussed in urgent debate last week, escalating violence in the province of Idlib is placing some two million people in danger," Hussein said.

The commissioner said a health centre was attacked every four days in 2017 and over a thousand airstrikes and ground-based strikes last year.

"It must be recalled how the massive violations committed by the government of Syria and its local allies, beginning in 2011, created the initial space in which extremist armed groups later flourished," he said.

"When you are prepared to kill your own people, lying is easy too. Claims by the government of Syria that it is taking every measure to protect its civilian population are frankly ridiculous," he said.

Reminding the words of the UN chief, "hell on earth" for Eastern Ghouta, Hussein said: "Next month or the month after, it will be somewhere else where people face an apocalypse -- an apocalypse intended, planned and executed by individuals within the government, apparently with the full backing of some of their foreign supporters.

"It is urgent to reverse this catastrophic course, and to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court," he added.

Eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb, has been under siege for the last five years and humanitarian access to the area, which is home to some 400,000 people, has been completely cut off.

In the past eight months, forces of the Bashar al-Assad regime have intensified their siege of Eastern Ghouta, making it nearly impossible for food or medicine to get into the district and leaving thousands of patients in need of treatment.

On Feb. 24, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a 30-day cease-fire in Syria without delay.

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