Urgent call for humanitarian truce

Unhindered humanitarian access to civilians inside Syria is crucials to prevent any further loss of innocent lives

The catastrophic situation that has emerged in many parts of Syria, especially Eastern Ghouta has deteriorated significantly in past eight weeks, with hundreds of innocent victims, including many children being brutally killed. After days of intense meetings and debates, the United Nations on Saturday passed a resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire across Syria. The resolution demanded for all parties to cease hostilities without delay with the aim of allowing provision of emergency aid and evacuations of the wounded. However, this did not extend to terrorist groups such as the Islamic state or al-Qaeda. And the later deliberate defiance of the ceasefire came as no surprise since the terrorist exclusion gave the Syrian regime a broad license to continue strikes.

Hence, the resolution meant nothing more than mere words at this point since hours later, Syrian warplanes resumed bombing Eastern Ghouta with chemical weapons.

The new wave of bombing and strikes on Sunday raised the death toll to more than 500 with 2500 people badly injured. The aftermath was not so shocking since Assad’s regime has long used the term “terrorist” as a catch-all for those on the receiving end of airstrikes, barrel bombs and shelling.

Several photos and videos of dead and wounded innocent children took the internet by storm painting a picture of ultimate horror in the area. And even the coldest of hearts could feel the pain and cry of these innocent victims. This was not just a challenge for the international law but a challenge for the humanity to come forward and reveal itself.

Any further delay in this humanitarian truce in Eastern Ghouta can cause more needless deaths and pain for these poor people who have been victims of a government imposed siege for years

The Geneva-based United Nations’ Human Rights Council started a regular session on Monday hearing calls to ensure that counter-terrorism efforts do not supersede international obligations to protect civilians in order to end the harmful use of the veto in the Security Council. “Eastern Ghouta cannot wait, it is high time to stop this hell on earth,” Guterres told the UN Human Rights Council, which opened its main four-week annual session in Geneva.

Moreover, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Y?ld?r?m said on Tuesday that the tragedy unfolding in the besieged Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta is a “shame of humanity,” after hearing reports of Assad regime’s continued shelling despite a UN resolution calling for a 30-day truce.

But what needs to be realised is that the responsibility now lies with the Security Council to enforce its own resolutions as soon as possible,calling for an end to sieges of civilian areas and attacks on civilians for unimpeded humanitarian access. It has now become imperative for the Council to deliver a strong message that there will be no impunity for those who commit war crimes. This horrible catastrophe is an example of the high price paid by innocent civilians with impunity for mass atrocities.

This unhindered humanitarian access to civilians inside Syria is a matter of great urgency at the moment to prevent the loss of any further innocent lives. It is high time that the International community should come together and unite to end this human suffering from deteriorating any further. The tragedy of Ghouta clearly shows how the implementation of international law entirely depends upon the willingness of the most powerful to instigate it.

There is no other way around it. To achieve a successful humanitarian truce, the implementation of ceasefire needs to be done with full force. The UN agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross even said it did not meet the requirements for delivering an efficient aid response to the crisis inside Eastern Ghouta. “Humanitarian corridors need to be well planned and must be implemented with the consent of parties on all sides,” said Robert Mardini, the ICRC’s Middle East director.

Hence mere words and assurances are not enough, and serious action is needed to save lives in Eastern Ghouta as soon as possible. Any further delay in this humanitarian truce can cause more needless deaths and pain for these poor people who have been victims under a government imposed siege for years. And remaining silent is even worse a shame on the so-called peace ensuring and responsible international bodies. It is imperative now for the international community to realise that this bloodshed must stop.

The writer a lawyer graduated with an LLB Hons, University of London International Programmes. Twitter @fizzaalik

Published in Daily Times, March 5th 2018.