UN human rights chief warns of consequences in Syria
WAM Geneva, Jul 27th, 2012 (WAM)--The United Nations human rights chief today urged the country's Government and armed opposition to protect civilians and abide by their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law - or face the consequences.
"The Government has the prime responsibility to protect civilians from all forms of violence," the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Navi Pillay, said in a news release. "While Government forces have on some occasions, in accordance with international humanitarian law, given civilians a clear opportunity to leave areas it is attacking, on other occasions it has not. Effective warning is required by international humanitarian law." "Civilians and civilian objects - including homes and other property, businesses, schools and places of worship - must be protected at all times. All parties, including the Government and opposition forces, must ensure that they distinguish between civilian and military targets," she added.
Syria has been wracked by violence, with more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 16 months ago. Over recent days, there have been reports of an escalation in violence in many towns and villages, as well as the country's two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo.
Pillay expressed particular concern about the likelihood of an imminent major confrontation in Aleppo, Syria's second largest city after the capital, Damascus.
"I have been receiving as yet unconfirmed reports of atrocities, including extra-judicial killings and shooting of civilians by snipers, that took place during the recent fighting in various suburbs of Damascus," she said. "It goes without saying that the increasing use of heavy weapons, tanks, attack helicopters and - reportedly - even jet fighters in urban areas has already caused many civilian casualties and is putting many more at grave risk." She noted that the consequences for civilians have been devastating, with between one and 1.5 million reported to have fled their homes, in addition to those killed and injured.