Assad using starvation as a war tactic, Amnesty says
A volunteer shares out food to the people in the Bab al-Salam refugee camp for displaced Syrians near the border with Turkey on 2 July 2013. (AFP/File)
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The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been starving its people and blocking humanitarian access to them as a “war strategy,” which can be considered a war crime or a crime against humanity, Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty told Al Arabiya News in Davos.
With rival Syrian parties unwilling to make major political concessions during the ongoing peace negotiations in Geneva, the international community should at least push for unfettered humanitarian access to the displaced, Shetty said in Davos.
“The one thing that they can agree on is the unfettered humanitarian access to the displaced. There are nine million people who have been pushed out of their homes. So at a minimum they should be able to allow humanitarian aid to reach people,” he said.
“Now the unfortunate reality is that the government of Syrian has been systematically using starvation and denial of humanitarian aid as part of their war strategy, which is a war crime and you’ve seen reports yesterday about crimes against humanity as well,” he added.
A report released on Tuesday by three former war crime international prosecutors accused the Syrian regime of “industrial-scale killing” and torture.
The 31-page document was based on evidence of a defector and was commissioned by Qatar, a supporter of the Syrian opposition.
The informant, who remains unidentified for security purposes, is a photographer who claims to have defected from the Syrian military police.
He presented forensic experts commissioned by the London legal firm representing Qatar with around 55,000 digital images of 11,000 dead detainees. He claims they died in captivity before being taken to a military hospital to be photographed.
Some of the detainees had no eyes while others showed signs of strangulation or electrocution, according to the report.
“Overall there was evidence that a significant number of the deceased were emaciated and a significant minority had been bound and/or beaten with rod-like objects,” said the report.
The report relies on the unauthenticated testimony and photographs given by the source.
Shetty said that irrespective of the longer term peace process, the minimum of humanitarian needs should be met.
“The commission of inquiry is not being given access, Amnesty International does not have access. If there is independent monitoring of human rights, we can be sure of the number of independent reviews and that will also help the humanitarian situation.”
On Wednesday, the heads of seven of the world’s largest humanitarian and human rights organization who are working on the crisis in Syria issued a joint call in Davos, urging the international community to stand up for the people of Syria who are enduring “the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.”
“The reputation of the United Nations and the member states of the Security Council are at risk unless they can show the resolve and responsibility needed to end the crisis and until that time take steps to ensure humanitarian assistance quickly reaches those who need it,” the statement read.
Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, said: “While negotiations will not resolve the crisis overnight, they should instead deliver a clear timeline and process for doing so. Time will fly this week – and every second in Montreux counts.”
Kevin Jenkins, president of World Vision, said: “The Syrian emergency is among the greatest tests in our generation of our leadership and our humanity. We are failing that test and, more importantly, the people of Syria. How much more suffering must the children endure?”
Amnesty International chief said the European governments are not doing enough to show solidarity with the Syrian people by taking in more refugees.
“There are 2.3 million people and there five countries in the neighborhood that are taking 97 percent of the refugees, including some countries like Lebanon, which you know are almost collapsing under the weight of the Palestinian and the Syrian situations.”
“The European leaders with all their wealth, with all the land mass they have, all they are pledging at this point is 14,000 refugee places, 11,000 are coming from Germany. If you go and lecture to them about all of sort of things and you don’t even do the minimum, this is an issue.