UN Demands Accountability over Syria Mass Disappearances

A Syrian flag flutters in Damascus, Syria April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho
A Syrian flag flutters in Damascus, Syria April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho
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UN Demands Accountability over Syria Mass Disappearances

A Syrian flag flutters in Damascus, Syria April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho
A Syrian flag flutters in Damascus, Syria April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

The UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday called for those behind “massive scale” enforced disappearances in Syria over the past decade of conflict to be held accountable.

The resolution, presented by Britain and a number of European countries, along with the US, Turkey and Qatar, decried that Syria’s crisis had entered a second decade “marked by consistent patterns of gross violations.”

The war in Syria has killed nearly 500,000 people since it started in 2011, with all sides in the increasingly complex conflict accused of war crimes.

Tuesday’s resolution, adopted with 26 of the council’s 47 members in favor, six opposed and 15 abstaining, voiced particular concern about the fate of tens of thousands of people who have vanished, AFP reported.

The text “strongly condemns the continued use of involuntary or enforced disappearances in the Syrian Arab Republic, and related human rights violations and abuses, which have been carried out with consistency, in particular by the Syrian regime.”

It also criticized enforced disappearances by other parties to the conflict, including the ISIS group, but said the Syrian regime was the main perpetrator.

The resolution voiced alarm at recent comments by the UN’s independent commission of inquiry on the rights situation in Syria indicating that “widespread enforced disappearance has been deliberately perpetrated by Syrian security forces throughout the past decade on a massive scale.”

The investigators had indicated that such disappearances had been used “to spread fear, stifle dissent and as punishment,” and that tens of thousands of men, women, boys and girls detained by Syrian authorities “remain forcibly disappeared.”

Presenting the resolution to the council, British Ambassador Simon Manley slammed the regime’s role in such a massive number of disappearances was “simply inexcusable.”

That regime, he said, “has the bureaucratic means to provide information on these disappeared individuals, the means to end the suffering of the families and loved ones of these people.”

“But it chooses not to employ those means. This is a deliberate act of unspeakable cruelty.”

He echoed a charge in the resolution, accusing Damascus’s forces of “intentionally prolonging the suffering of hundreds of thousands of family members.”

It emphasized “the need for accountability, including for crimes committed in relation to enforced disappearance,” stressing that “accountability is vital in peace negotiations and peace-building processes.”

Steep bread and diesel price hikes have gone into force in government-held parts of Syria, bringing more pain for civilians in a long-running economic crisis.

Damascus has repeatedly raised fuel prices in recent years to tackle a financial crunch sparked by the country’s decade-long civil war and compounded by a spate of Western sanctions.

The price of diesel fuel nearly tripled and the price of bread doubled, according to the official SANA news agency, only days after Damascus announced a 25 percent increase in the price of petrol.

“This was all expected and now we fear further increases in the price of ... food and medicine,” Damascus resident Wael Hammoud, 41, said while he waited for more than 30 minutes to hail a cab to take him to work.

The price hikes coincided with a decree issued by President Bashar Assad that increases public sector salaries by 50 percent and sets the minimum wage at 71,515 Syrian pounds per month ($28 at the official rate), up from 47,000 pounds ($18).



Israel Strikes Gaza, Yemen, Lebanon Foes after Attacks

Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
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Israel Strikes Gaza, Yemen, Lebanon Foes after Attacks

Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)

The Middle East was reeling Sunday from deadly violence with Israel bombing Gaza, Lebanon and Yemen in quick succession in response to attacks from Iran-backed militant groups.
Despite Washington's top diplomat asserting a deal is near the "goal line" to end more than nine months of devastating war between Israel and Gaza rulers Hamas, the Israeli military said it intercepted a missile fired from Yemen, as it pressed on with its offensive in the besieged Palestinian territory, Agence France Presse reported.
Dozens have been killed since Saturday across the Gaza Strip, the civil defense agency said, including in strikes on homes in the central Nuseirat and Bureij areas and displaced people near southern Khan Yunis.
Residents said a major operation was underway in the district of Rafah in the south, reporting heavy artillery and clashes.
The deadly strikes in Gaza came hours after Hezbollah and its ally Hamas said they fired at Israeli positions from south Lebanon, while Yemen's Houthi group vowed to respond to Israeli warplanes hitting a key port.
The fire left raging by the strikes on Hodeida port "is seen across the Middle East and the significance is clear," Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said.
Detailing the first strikes claimed by Israel in Yemen, Gallant warned of further operations if the Houthis "dare to attack us" after a Houthi drone strike killed one in Tel Aviv on Friday.
In Hodeida three people were killed and 87 wounded, health officials said in a statement carried by Houthi media.
Netanyahu travels to Washington
The trio of militant groups has vowed to keep up attacks on Israel until a truce ends the violence in Gaza, which lies in ruins, with most residents forced to flee their homes.
The Gaza war was triggered by Hamas's October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom are still in Gaza, including 42 the Israeli military says are dead.
Israel's military retaliation to wipe out Hamas has killed at least 38,919 people, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
The war has also unleashed hunger and health crises in Gaza, with Israel and the United Nations trading blame for vital aid supplies failing to reach those in need.
After the detection of poliovirus in Gaza sewage, though no individual cases, the World Health Organization said there were "monumental" constraints to mounting a timely response.
WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said Friday the agency believes many more diseases are "spreading out of control" inside Gaza.
The premier is due to address US lawmakers Wednesday in Washington, where he will be under pressure to reach a ceasefire with Hamas.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday a truce was within reach.
"I believe we're... driving toward the goal line in getting an agreement that would produce a ceasefire, get the hostages home, and put us on a better track to trying to build lasting peace and stability," he said.