Syria camp bombing ‘despicable,’ -UN


UN rights chief calls Syria camp bombing ‘despicable,’ warns crisis in Hama prison may turn deadly

A woman prepares a meal at a makeshift outdoor cooking area, atop the muddy grounds of the Bab Al Salame camp for IDPs, near the border with Turkey in Aleppo Governorate, Syria (January 2014). Photo: UNOCHA

6 May 2016 – The United Nations human rights chief today “unreservedly” condemned yesterday’s bombing of two camps for displaced people in Sarmada, located in north-western Syria, which according to early reports by first responders, killed around 30 civilians including children.

“Given these tent settlements have been in these locations for several weeks, and can be clearly viewed from the air, it is extremely unlikely that these murderous attacks were an accident. It is far more likely they were deliberate and amount to a war crime,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein in a statement released by his Office (OHCHR).

In addition to those killed in the attack, dozens of other civilians were injured, and many tents were completely destroyed.

“My staff, along with other organizations, will leave no stone unturned in their efforts to research and record evidence of what appears to be a particularly despicable and calculated crime against an extremely vulnerable group of people, most of whom were forced to flee their homes in Aleppo in February because of earlier sustained aerial attacks there,” Mr. Zeid said.

The UN human rights chief also indicated that initial reports suggest the attacks were carried out by Syrian Government aircraft, “but this remains to be verified.”

“It is hard to find any more words to describe the horror facing civilians in Syria: bombed and slaughtered in their homes, shot in the streets and tortured in prisons; bombed in their hospital beds; bombed in the camps they flee to; facing immense difficulties crossing borders to escape the horror that has engulfed their country for five long years; and finally – if they somehow manage to get there – facing rejection and xenophobia in Europe,” he stated.

The High Commissioner also said he is alarmed about developments in Hama Central Prison where a riot took place on 1 May after the authorities reportedly tried to extract five detainees and take them to the notorious Sidnaya prison where they were allegedly going to be executed.

“Detainees took control of a section of the prison and are holding some guards hostage, and the authorities have cut off water and electricity supplies,” Mr. Zeid reported. “Heavily armed security forces are surrounding the prison and we fear that a possibly lethal assault is imminent. Hundreds of lives are at stake, and I call on the authorities to resort to mediation, or other alternatives to force.”

The senior UN official stressed he is urging all Governments with influence in Syria to intervene to stop these types of attacks and other human rights violations and abuses committed by the warring parties.

“And I urge those Governments on the Security Council that have consistently blocked the referral of Syria to the International Criminal Court, to live up to the responsibilities that come with membership of the Council. They should refer Syria to the ICC, so that there is a clear path to punishment for those who commit crimes like these,” he concluded.