Middle East

Syria 'bleak' with violence upsurge, economic woes: UN

A picture taken during a tour organised by the Syrian Ministry of Information shows a Syrian national flag and cars in the district of Daraa al-Balad of Syria's southern city of Daraa, on September 12, 2021.(Photo by LOUAI BESHARA / AFP)

GENEVA: The upsurge in violence in Syria, combined with its plummeting economy, is making life increasingly bleak for civilians, United Nations investigators said Tuesday.

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said war crimes were still being committed and the increase in fighting was only adding to Syria's woes and making it unsafe for refugees to return.

Syria's war has killed an estimated 500,000 people and displaced millions since it started with the brutal suppression of anti-government protests in 2011.

"The overall situation in Syria looks increasingly bleak," commissioner Karen Koning AbuZayd said in a statement.

"In addition to intensifying violence, the economy is plummeting, Mesopotamia's famous riverbeds are at their driest in decades, and widespread community transmission of Covid-19 seems unstoppable by a health care system decimated by the war and lacking oxygen and vaccines," AbuZayd said, adding it was "no time" for refugees to return.

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria was mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate and record all violations of international law since March 2011 in the country.

Its latest report covers incidents between July 1, 2020 and June 30 this year.

The three-member panel said there seemed to be no moves to unite the country or seek reconciliation, with incidents of arbitrary detention by government forces continuing unabated.

The report said tens of thousands of Syrians were still desperately awaiting news from missing and disappeared loved ones, while tens of thousands more were being unlawfully detained.

Recent months had seen increased fighting and violence in the northwest, northeast and south of the country, it said.

Commissioner Hanny Megally called the siege of Daraa al-Balad an unfolding tragedy.

"It's only two or three months into it but it's the same tactic of preventing food, medicine and other goods coming in and preventing people from leaving," he told a press conference in Geneva.

Commission chair Paulo Pinheiro said it was "scandalous" that an estimated 40,000 children -- half of them Iraqi and the rest from around 60 other countries -- were still being held in Al-Hol and other detention camps for the displaced and families of defeated jihadists, because their home countries refuse to take them back in.

"Punishing children for the sins of their parents cannot be justified," he told the press conference.

The commission will present its report to the Human Rights Council on September 23.





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