World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


Impeding aid to besieged civilians may amount to war crime

Impeding aid to besieged civilians in Yarmouk camp in Syria may amount to war crime – Pillay
GENEVA (17 January 2014) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday strongly condemned the repeated obstruction of convoys trying to bring supplies to a besieged population of some 18,000 people in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, saying that “impeding humanitarian assistance to civilians in desperate need may amount to a war crime.”

“Over the past four months numerous attempts by the UN and other organizations to bring convoys of food and medical aid to malnourished children, women and elderly people close to starvation in Yarmouk, have been thwarted, and very little aid was getting through during the nine months prior to that,” Pillay said.

“Civilians, including many women and children, are caught in a quagmire between besieging Syrian government forces and affiliated militias surrounding the Yarmouk camp, as well as anti-government armed groups operating inside,” the High Commissioner said.

There have been reports of a number of deaths from starvation, as well as from the consumption of rotten food, and because of the chronic shortage of medical supplies and expertise for sick and injured people and pregnant women trapped in the camp. The situation is compounded by the lack of electricity and severe shortage of water. Civilians also continue to be killed by ongoing fighting and sporadic aerial attacks.

“The extent of malnutrition, and the numbers who have died directly or indirectly because of it, are not known for sure,” Pillay said. “But it is crystal clear that the situation in Yarmouk is now extremely desperate, and that civilians are dying as a result. Government forces and affiliated militias appear to be imposing collective punishment on the civilians in Yarmouk.”

The High Commissioner recalled that international law requires the parties to the conflict to permit free passage of all consignments of essential foodstuffs and clothing intended for children under fifteen, expectant mothers and maternity cases and to allow the free passage of all consignments of medical and hospital supplies.

The two main routes for humanitarian relief to enter into the Yarmouk camp can only be reached through a succession of checkpoints, that strictly control entry and exit, preventing residents from accessing basic necessities, including food and medicine.

Pillay highlighted that starvation of civilians as a method of combat is prohibited under international law and may amount to a war crime. She stressed that objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works, are protected under international law. Attacking, destroying, removing or rendering useless such objects are prohibited.

“Attempts to deliver humanitarian aid have been consistently thwarted, most recently this week when another UN aid convoy was prevented from entering Yarmouk when fighting broke out around it, and a bulldozer accompanying it was hit by gunfire,” Pillay said. “Intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a humanitarian assistance is a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,” she said.

“Customary international law also requires parties to a conflict to avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas,” she added.

“All parties to the conflict must urgently facilitate unimpeded access to humanitarian relief to the civilians trapped in Yarmouk, before more children die,” the UN human rights chief said. “In addition, immediate action needs to be taken to ensure safe passage for all those civilians wishing to leave.”

More than 160,000 Palestinian refugees lived in Yarmouk, a suburb just south of Damascus city, until December 2012, when the vast majority fled after armed opposition groups entered the camp and Government forces attacked. Small groups were also subsequently allowed out by surrounding Government forces, or managed to escape.

It is understood that at least 18,000 people remain in Yarmouk. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has been unable to deliver any assistance since September last year, with the single exception of a delivery of 2,000 doses of polio vaccines in December.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Whaling: Japan’s Institute for Cetacean Research In Defiance Of World Court Ruling

The ICR Today Filed Court Briefs Stating They Intend to Return to Antarctica to Hunt Whales in 2015-2016; Will Seek to Enjoin Other Sea Shepherd Entities from Obstructing Their Operations More>>

Ukraine: UN Urges 'Maximum Restraint' Amid Situation In East Ukraine

Deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation in eastern Ukraine, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for maximum restraint and appealed to all sides to work towards calming the situation, which has the 'growing potential' to ... More>>

United Nations: Children Can Now Lodge Complaints With The UN

GENEVA (14 April 2014) – United Nations child rights experts have hailed a new treaty that allows children to complain directly to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child about alleged violations of their rights. More>>

India: Election But A Ritual In Nation Lacking Rule Of Law

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) congratulates the people of India for their participation to elect the 16th Lok Sabha. The process has attracted, as usual, considerable media attention across the world. Media claims the process to be 'the largest democratic ... More>>

Solomon Islands: Thousands Remain Affected After Flash Floods

An estimated 52,000 people remain affected in the worst-hit areas of Honiara and greater Guadalcanal following last week’s devastating floods which killed at least 23 people. More>>

ALSO:

World: Some 437,000 People Murdered Worldwide In 2012 - UN

Almost half a million people across the world lost their lives in 2012 as a result of intentional homicide, with the highest murder rates logged in the Americas and Africa, and the lowest in Europe, Asia and Oceania, the United Nations Office on ... More>>

Central African Republic:: Security Council Establishes UN Peacekeeping Mission

Deeply concerned about the deteriorating security situation and ongoing human rights abuses in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Security Council today approved the establishment of a nearly 12,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping operation ... More>>

ALSO:

Parliament: NZ Sending Aid Flight To Solomons

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has announced further support for the response to severe flooding in Solomon Islands. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news