Syrian Crisis: United Nations Response – Update No.3

Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaks to journalists in Geneva on her priorities for her second term in office, which began last month. 18 October 2012 Geneva, SwitzerlandOn 2 August, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed “deep shock” at allegations that armed opposition groups in Syria executed dozens of Government soldiers captured after a battle in Khan Al-Assal, a district of Aleppo in July. In a press statement, she said that the OHCHR team on the ground was investigating the reports, and had examined video footages taken by opposition forces in Khan Al-Assal and collected accounts from people in Aleppo. “The events in Khan Al-Assal are further evidence that flagrant violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed by all parties have tragically become the norm in the Syrian conflict”, added the High Commissioner.

Also on 2 August, Under-Secretary-General for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos expressed frustration with the lack of protection for civilians in Syria and reiterated her call to all parties to stop violence. “We need commitment by all parties to stop actions that result in loss of civilian lives, to allow access for aid organizations, and to respect their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.”

In a separate statement issued on the same day, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake voiced concerns at the rapidly deteriorating situation of women and children in Homs, noting that some 400,000 IDPs now live in the district of Al Waer. “In recent days the situation in Al Waer has worsened, with reports of intense daily clashes, and rocket and mortar strikes causing many casualties”, he stressed in a press statement. Mr. Lake urged parties to facilitate safe humanitarian access to these families in order to deliver life-saving assistance to them.

On 6 August, the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General said that the Head of the United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian conflict, Professor Åke Sellström, and his team have reassembled in The Hague, and are completing preparations prior to their departure to Syria. At the same time, legal and logistical modalities for the investigations are being finalized at the UN Headquarters on the basis of the agreement reached in July with Syria, it added.

In a recently issued self-evaluation report of UNHCR’s response to the Syrian refugee emergency (), the agency raised concerns over issues of child protection in refugee camps and noted that “a far more substantial and coherent strategy is needed”. Answering a related question from the media on 6 August, a UNHCR Spokesperson noted that “more could be done to protect children being put in vulnerable situations in refugee camps. UNHCR was working to recognize these situations”. She also pointed out that in terms of the ongoing requirements, the Syrian refugees response operation was only 33 percent funded to date and UNHCR would continue to look at its capacity and appeals for funding. 

Selection of UN stories 

Syrian children in Turkey build bridges to the future
Osmaniye and Saricam camps, Turkey, 2 August 2013 – “Expressing my opinions without pressure; living in freedom and safety.” This is how one Syrian child, displaced by war and living in a camp in Turkey, defined the rights of the child during an art class organized with the support of UNICEF Turkey. 

Ramadan, Not Quite A Feast This Year In Syria
As the holy month of Ramadan nears its end, close to three million Syrians continue to struggle each day after having left their homes and possessions and fled to safer areas. With limited or no incomes, the traditional Ramadan banquets and sweets seem a distant memory for internally displaced Syrians.