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UN reports Syrian exodus 'no surprise'

September 3, 2015

The UN's human rights panel on Syria has demanded that outside powers stop shipping arms to the warring sides and develop more 'legal channels' for refugees. The grinding 4-and-half year war has claimed 250,000 lives.

Syrian refugees in Lebanon
Image: Getty Images/AFP/J. Eid

UN Human Rights Council investigators on Thursday submitted their 10th report on Syria's conflict, saying "no end" was in sight and civilians were "suffering the unimaginable" as the world watched.

It added the failure to adequately protect Syrian refugees who had sought shelter abroad, especially in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, had "translated" into the current refugee crisis across southern Europe."

The panel chaired by Brazilian Paulo Sergio Pinheiro and including former UN war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte of Switzerland said it was "unconscionable" that the global community, as well as Middle East factions, were "prevaricating" in a conflagration that had escalated since 2011.

Schweiz UN PK zu Krieg in Syrien Paulo Sergio Pinheiro
Pinheiro says care of Syrian refugees 'imperative'Image: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

"The war is increasingly driven by international and regional powers, primarily in accordance with their respective geostrategic interests," its report said.

Syrians themselves had "gradually lost control over the cost of events," it added.

Exodus predictions

Panel member Karen Koning Abuzayd, said:"We predicted this was going to spill over, that it was going to take a long time and that's what is happening now."

"People are finally starting to feel the consequences" of the Syrian civil war in Europe, she told journalists in Geneva.

Syrians account for most of the estimated 234,000 migrants who have reached Greek shores since January, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Call for prosecutor

The panel chided the UN Security Council for failing to authorize the appointment of an international war crimes prosecutor for Syria because of internal dissent.

Similar tactics were used by many sides, it said, including President Bashar al-Assad's forces, Islamic State, and al-Qaeda-backed Nusra Front.

This included the encirclement of population areas, resulting in starvation, malnutrition and chronic illness among besieged residents.

Syria's various factions had committed crimes against humanity through widespread attacks on civilians, including murder, torture, rape and kidnappings, it said.

In addition, Islamic State's use of sexual slavery also constituted a crime against humanity, the commission found.

The report was based on 335 interviews with victims and witnesses, collected from January to July. It is to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council on 21 September.

IS 'losing ground'

Pinheiro said the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (IS) group - despite its media-propagated brutality - was "losing ground" after losses to Kurds backed by US-led coalition air power.

While scoring in psychological terms by recruiting youth from Europe and other regions, the IS was beginning "to feel the pressure," Pinheiro said.

The radical group seized swathes of territory in northern Syria and western Iraq last year.

Bildergalerie syrische Flüchtlinge Wintereinbruch Januar 2015
Winter is approaching again at camps in LebanonImage: Reuters/K. Ashawi

"It was imperative for the world community to act with humanity and compassion by developing legal channels of migration that increase the protection space for asylum seekers and refugees," Pinheiro said.

Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have taken in most of the four million Syrians who have fled their country. The war has also displaced 7.6 million people within Syria.

The UN children's agency UNICEF said on Thursday that more than 700,000 displaced Syrian children were not in school, particularly in Turkey and Lebanon.

ipj/jm (dpa, AP, AFP)