The slow motion tragedy being played out in the Syrian city of Aleppo shames us all. For months, reports of atrocities have served to highlight not only the barbarity of the forces bearing down on the remaining population but also the impotence and acquiescence of the International Community.
As the battle reaches its bloody end, the UN are receiving horrifying reports of war crimes as pro-Government forces enter the rebel-held east of the city. Stories of summary executions, of women and children being shot dead in their homes and of arrests and torture. While some civilians did manage to escape over the last few days, thousands more – including children – remain trapped, unable or unwilling to leave because of fear of the near constant bombardment and the very real danger of being shot on sight.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has demanded access to the city but this has been denied, along with all requests for a humanitarian corridor to bring in aid and allow civilians to escape the carnage. Right now the people of Aleppo have begun posting despairing messages of goodbye on social media.
War Child stands with the OHCHR in calling for all sides to act within the rule of International Law – including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – and to honour the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was, ironically, celebrated just days ago. We call for a sustained ceasefire to allow civilians to escape to safety and on the International Community to step up its assistance to those who do manage to flee.
Since the carnage of World War II there have been many dark episodes, from the Rwandan genocide, through Srebrenica and Darfur. ‘Never again’ say the politicians each time. Aleppo is, once again, proving how hollow those words really are.