ALERT – Idlib: States must commit to the current diplomatic process to end bombing in urban areas | February 28, 2020

destruction in Syria

As almost 1 million people – mainly women and children – have been forced to flee fighting and bombing in Idlib, northwest Syria, HI urges States to fully commit to the international diplomatic process aimed to better protect civilians from the use of explosive weapon in populated areas. The worst humanitarian crisis in the 9-year […]

As almost 1 million people – mainly women and children – have been forced to flee fighting and bombing in Idlib, northwest Syria, HI urges States to fully commit to the international diplomatic process aimed to better protect civilians from the use of explosive weapon in populated areas.

The worst humanitarian crisis in the 9-year Syrian conflict

Over 900,000 people – mainly women and children – are displaced by escalating violence in Idlib, northwest Syria, since December. This is the largest displacement of people in 9 years of conflict: families are stranded in overcrowded camps at the turkey border, needing shelter, protection, food, water, hygiene and health and facing cold winter. Many of them are traumatized, having faced multiple displacements to flee violence’s in the last years.

Massive bombardments in populated areas have had terrible humanitarian consequences: families torn apart, life-changing injuries, psychological trauma, forced displacement, destruction of essential infrastructure (hospitals, ports, bridges, etc.) and ever worsening poverty.

3 million people are trapped by fighting and bombing. Almost 1 million have already fled. After Homs in 2012, Aleppo in 2016, La Goutha in 2017, Deraa in 2018, etc., the same scenario repeatedly occurs entailing massive and repeated bombing in populated areas having tragic humanitarian consequences. Notwithstanding those attacks deliberately targeting civilians or civilian infrastructures, which constitute clear violations of International Humanitarian Law, the Syrian crisis has shown years after years the extent to which the use of explosive weapons in urban contexts have devastating consequences for civilians.  With the diplomatic process started in Vienna last October and leading to a Political Declaration due to be adopted in Dublin on May 26th this year. States have a historic opportunity to make a real difference in protecting civilians from a major cause of humanitarian catastrophe in modern conflict: the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.” says Anne Héry, Director for Advocacy and Institutional Relations at HI.

 Idlib, a tragic example of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas

The use of explosive weapons in populated area is intense and repeated in Syria since December 2011. Civilian infrastructures have been hit, including Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps, schools, health centres and hospitals. Deliberate attacks on aid workers, medical staff and their facilities were also reported. Many aid organisations have suspended operations.

Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) reports that nearly 80,000 people were killed or injured by explosive weapons between 2011 and 2018 in Syria, 87% of which were civilians.

Working in Jordan and Lebanon, HI teams are witnessing the suffering and trauma of the Syrian population and their impossibility to return due to the impossibility to restore social or economic activities and due to heavy contamination. As Syria’s essential infrastructure and economy are destroyed, 80% of Syrians currently live below the poverty line. Contamination with explosive remnants of war is one of the main obstacles preventing the return of refugees and displaced persons. In Syria, 11,5 million people are exposed to the risks posed by explosive remnants of war, according to UNMAS.

“The consequences of the bombings in populated areas are terrible: families torn apart, devastated cities, entire populations fleeing en masse, explosive remnants contaminating entire neighbourhoods, etc. Syrians are in a dire situation and will need humanitarian aid for many years to come. The country’s infrastructure is being destroyed, making access to basic services such as health is a top priority for humanitarian organizations.” says Alma Al Osta, Advocacy Manager on Disarmament and Protection of Civilians at HI.

Diplomatic process to end bombing in urban areas

HI and members of the International Network of Explosive Weapons (INEW) are working with States to convince States to fully support a strong political declaration to end the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas and to ensure support to the victims of these weapons.

Negotiations for a political declaration to end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas started in Vienna on October 1-2, 2019. Two rounds of negotiations took place in Geneva on November 2019 and February 2020 and will be followed by another round of consultations from March 23 to March 27. This diplomatic process will culminate at a conference scheduled on May 26 in Dublin, where a political declaration will be opened for endorsements.

HI calls States to fully commit to the international diplomatic process aimed to better protect civilians from the use of explosive weapon in populated areas. HI also calls for an immediate ceasefire and for an end of the bombing and shelling of areas populated by civilians.

HI is mobilising citizens’ support in 7 countries (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and United Kingdom) to ensure that governments will commit to the cause: Citizens are invited to write to their MPs on a dedicated internet platform to ask their government to support the declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.


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