UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is again calling on the UN Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC), pointing to “serious violations” including blocking aid deliveries and medical care to millions.
The UN chief also called on all combatants, UN member states and civil society to cooperate with an independent panel established by the UN General Assembly in December 2016 to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity in Syria.
Guterres said in a report to the council circulated on Friday on the humanitarian situation in Syria last month that “accountability for serious violations is a requirement under international law and central to achieving sustainable peace.”
Last month, no aid was delivered to more than 417,000 people in nine “besieged” locations, and only 60,000 of the nearly 2.5 million Syrians living in “hard-to-reach” areas received humanitarian help, he said, adding that 95 percent of the besieged population is besieged by Syrian government forces.
“Access for the United Nations and its partners to those people living in besieged and hard-to-reach locations remained a critical concern,” Guterres said.
Deliveries of food and other aid remained “extremely challenging” in many areas last month “as a result of active conflict, shifting conflict lines, administrative impediments and deliberate restrictions imposed on the movement of people and goods by the parties to the conflict,” he said.
The secretary-general singled out the deteriorating humanitarian situation for the estimated 393,000 people living in eastern Ghouta, an opposition-held pocket besieged by Syrian government forces. Prices for basic goods there are about 30 times greater than in neighboring Damascus, “far beyond the purchasing power of most residents,” he said.
From Dec. 26 to Dec. 28, 29 urgent medical cases were evacuated from eastern Ghouta, Guterres said, but added that “an additional 600 people remain in need of urgent medical evacuation” and “18 have already died while waiting to be evacuated.”
He called on all countries with influence over the Syrian government and opposition fighters “to do their utmost” to facilitate medical evacuations and humanitarian aid into eastern Ghouta.
Syrian authorities also continued rejecting or removing “life-saving and life-sustaining medical items” from convoys last month, Guterres said, adding that 16 healthcare facilities and personnel were attacked last month.
A Security Council resolution backed by more than 60 countries to refer the Syrian conflict to the ICC was vetoed by Russia and China in May 2014.
A new attempt at the council to refer Syria to the ICC would almost certainly face a similar fate.
However, following the double veto, several countries, including Sweden, Germany, France and Finland, said they were investigating or prosecuting alleged perpetrators of grave crimes in Syria.
In November last year, Russia also vetoed a renewal of the expert body from the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that was determining responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
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