Syria: with situation 'beyond catastrophic', UN must act on humanitarian aid

A boy holds his baby sister saved from rubble after an airstrike in Aleppo
A boy holds his baby sister saved from rubble after an airstrike in Aleppo, February 2014 © REUTERS/Hosam Katan
‘The humanitarian situation in Syria is beyond catastrophic’ - José Luis Díaz
 
The UN Security Council must take action - including by threatening targeted sanctions - against all parties in Syria that are flouting a unanimous UN resolution calling for immediate humanitarian access and an end to human rights abuses, said Amnesty International. 
 
The Security Council is due to discuss the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s second report on the implementation of the resolution (2139) later today. 
 
Under the terms of Resolution 2139, adopted in February, Security Council members are committed to “taking further steps” if the resolution is not being implemented. Russia, which along with China has vetoed three previous UN Security Council resolutions on the situation in Syria since the crisis began, will be key to decisive Security Council action. 
 
Despite a slight monthly increase in the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Syria, aid to most of those in need remains blocked, with more than nine million people urgently needing humanitarian aid, including those under siege and in other hard-to-reach areas. Meanwhile, arbitrary detentions and abductions, as well as indiscriminate attacks on civilians, have continued unabated, with government forces chiefly responsible, but with armed groups also to blame. 
 
Government forces in particular continue to enforce sieges, including upon some 20,000 civilians in Yarmouk, south of Damascus. Since Amnesty published a report on the situation in Yarmouk last month - which included details of 194 siege-related deaths among residents, all said to be civilians - at least 60 further such deaths have been reported, including 19 from starvation. 
 
Government forces have also pummelled swathes of the city of Aleppo - as well as the besieged city of Daraya - with indiscriminate, unguided barrel bombs. Arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and deaths in custody - including in the custody of armed groups - have also continued relentlessly. The Syrian authorities have also failed to comply with the UN resolution’s call to release all arbitrarily-held detainees, who include prisoners of conscience. Despite a few recent releases, armed groups also continue to hold civil society activists and others.
 
José Luis Díaz, head of Amnesty International’s UN office in New York, said:
 
“The humanitarian situation in Syria is beyond catastrophic. More than two months after a UN resolution to alleviate the suffering of civilians and end war crimes was adopted, the situation there has only worsened.
 
“If the Security Council is to salvage what credibility it has left on Syria it has to ensure its unanimous decision is respected, including by making good on its intention to take further steps to get the different parties to comply. Additional measures, including sanctions, must be taken against those responsible for violating the terms of the resolution. 
 
“If Russia is serious about the legitimacy and credibility of the Security Council, as it consistently claims, then it should support decisive Council action and not allow resolution 2139, which it voted for, to continue to be so callously disregarded.
 
“In Yarmouk and across Syria besieged civilians are continuing to suffer and die because of a failure to ensure that the resolution is being implemented on the ground.”
 

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