UN decries that Syrian death toll 'no longer on the international radar'

The United Nations condemned on Friday the international community’s decreased and seemingly fatigued response to the large numbers of civilians in Syria that continue to be killed in a deadly national conflict that has raged for over eight years.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The United Nations condemned on Friday the international community’s decreased and seemingly fatigued response to the large numbers of civilians in Syria that continue to be killed in a deadly national conflict that has raged for over eight years.

“During the early years of this murderous conflict when the casualties were in the tens, then hundreds, then thousands,” said Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a strongly-worded statement, “the world showed considerable concern about what was happening.”

“Now, airstrikes kill and maim significant numbers of civilians several times a week, and the response seems to be a collective shrug, with the Security Council paralyzed by the persistent failure of its five Permanent Members to agree to use their power and influence to stop the fighting and killing once and for all.”

The result, she said, is “tragedy on such a vast scale that we no longer seem to be able to relate to it at all.”

In the past three months, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) has documented the killing of at least 450 civilians, including 91 by airstrikes in just the past ten days.

“Despite repeated calls by the United Nations to respect the principle of precaution and distinction in their conduct of hostilities,” Bachelet continued, “this latest relentless campaign of airstrikes by the Government and its allies has continued to hit medical facilities, schools and other civilian infrastructure such as markets and bakeries.” 

The human rights chief called attention to the high death toll caused by a succession of airstrikes in Idlib and other parts of northwestern Syria, pointing out that, given the persistent pattern of such attacks on civilian targets, “it seems highly unlikely” that these non-combatant deaths were mistakes.

“Intentional attacks against civilians are war crimes, and those who have ordered them or carried them out are criminally responsible for their actions,” she charged.

Bachelet lamented the fact that the carnage in Syria since 2011, which she numbered in the “several hundreds of thousands... is no longer on the international radar.”

She urged “influential parties,” including those that agreed to reduce hostilities as part of the de-escalation agreement, to “urgently use their influence” to halt the current military campaign and “bring the warring parties back to the negotiating table.”

“The alternative,” said the high commissioner, “is just more mindless death and destruction in a war without end.”

Bachelet, the former president of Chile, holds a medical degree in surgery with a specialization in pediatrics and public health. She was the first director of UN Women and began serving in her current post on September 1, 2018.