The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights confirmed Tuesday that at least dozens of civilians in Aleppo have been slaughtered by Syrian regime forces who claim they’re liberating the city and evacuating the citizens.
That’s in addition to many more casualties suffered due to heavy bombardment of Syria’s largest city.
Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein confirmed online reports of men, women and children being slain by government forces or militias loyal to Bashar al-Assad, including at least 11 women, 13 children and 58 men shot to death Monday by Assad forces entering homes, rounding up and killing residents.
“The crushing of Aleppo, the immeasurably terrifying toll on its people, the bloodshed, the wanton slaughter of men, women and children, the destruction – and we are nowhere near the end of this cruel conflict,” Zeid said. “What can happen next, if the international community continues to collectively wring its hands, can be much more dangerous. What is happening with Aleppo could repeat itself in Douma, in Raqqa, in Idleb. We cannot let this continue.”
Raqqa is currently occupied by ISIS, and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces — an alliance of Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Circassians, Turkmen and others who oppose Assad and terrorist groups — are currently waging an offensive to liberate the city. If they are successful, Assad will likely wage war against the SDF to take the city.
“In the absence of independent monitors observing the screening process, and given the terrible record of arbitrary detention and torture in Syria even prior to the start of this conflict, we must take urgent measures to ensure the protection of the people who have fled Aleppo,” Zeid said.
The commissioner confirmed that his office is documenting the violations being committed against Syrians, “with the firm conviction that one day those who are responsible will be held to account.”
The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on the carnage Tuesday, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reporting that opposition forces’ lines had collapsed and they only controlled five percent of their previously held territory in the city.
“I have said before that we have collectively failed the people of Syria. The Security Council has not exercised its preeminent responsibility with regard to the maintenance of international peace and security,” Ban said. “History will not easily absolve us, but this failure compels us to do even more to offer the people of Aleppo our solidarity at this moment.”
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power targeted Security Council member Russia as well as allies Assad and Iran at the meeting, telling the countries’ envoys “you bear responsibility for these atrocities.”
“By rejecting UN-ICRC evacuation efforts, you are signaling to those militia who are massacring innocents to keep doing what they are doing. Denying or obfuscating the facts – as you will do today – saying up is down, black is white, will not absolve you. When one day there is a full accounting of the horrors committed in this assault of Aleppo – and that day will come, sooner or later – you will not be able to say you did not know what was happening. You will not be able to say you were not involved. We all know what is happening. And we all know you are involved,” Power said. “Aleppo will join the ranks of those events in world history that define modern evil, that stain our conscience decades later. Halabja, Rwanda, Srebrenica, and, now, Aleppo.”
“To the Assad regime, Russia, and Iran, your forces and proxies are carrying out these crimes. Your barrel bombs and mortars and airstrikes have allowed the militia in Aleppo to encircle tens of thousands of civilians in your ever-tightening noose. It is your noose. Three Member States of the UN contributing to a noose around civilians,” Power continued.
“It should shame you. Instead, by all appearances, it is emboldening you. You are plotting your next assault. Are you truly incapable of shame? Is there literally nothing that can shame you? Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child that gets under your skin, that just creeps you out a little bit? Is there nothing you will not lie about or justify?”
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin slammed Power for chiding him and others “as if she was Mother Teresa.”
“Please remember your own country’s track record, and then you can start opining from the position of any moral supremacy,” Churkin said.
Human Rights Watch said Tuesday that the group was able to contact a Syria Civil Defense member, a local doctor and a journalist still in Aleppo, and each said they had received reports of entire families being executed in areas that have been taken by government forces in recent days.
“Today I saw two corpses in the street covered in cloth,” nurse Ahmed Said told Human Rights Watch. “They hadn’t been moved because no one knows who their relatives are. There’s no room in the cemeteries to bury the bodies anymore.”