United Nations officials on Friday issued a written statement condemning the repeated blocking of convoys attempting to provide aid to the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria where close to 20,000 people are suffering from starvation and disease.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also noted that armed rebel groups battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's military forces had to be warned that widespread executions and unlawful killings are serious violations international law that could lead to war crimes prosecutions. She pointed to reports of mass executions in the northern part of the war-torn Arab country.
In addition, the United Nations claims that it has received reports of a number of mass executions of civilians and fighters who were no longer participating in armed combat in Aleppo, Idlib and Raqqa by Islamist opposition groups in Syria such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), formerly known at al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQII).
“While exact numbers are difficult to verify, reliable eyewitness testimony that we have gathered suggests that many civilians and fighters in the custody of extremist armed opposition groups have been executed since the beginning of ,” said High Commissioner Pillay.
Pillay also stated that international law requires all parties involved in an armed conflict to allow all consignments of essential foodstuffs and clothing intended for children under fifteen, expectant mothers and maternity cases to be delivered unfettered.
Reports suggest that just within the first week of January, numerous civilians were murdered execution-style by radical Muslim groups and affiliates of al-Qaeda. For example, on January 6, in the city of Aleppo, three innocent civilians who were allegedly abducted and by ISIS and held prisoner at its base in Makhfar al-Saleheen were later discovered dead. They had been handcuffed and had bullet wounds in their heads.
Two days later in that same city, numerous bodies were discovered in a children’s hospital which was used as headquarters for ISIS until it was forced to withdraw after a raid by other armed opposition groups.
The OHCHR officials also claim that an eyewitness they interviewed identified at least four local journalists and activists among the dead, as well as captured fighters affiliated with various armed opposition groups.
“The execution of civilians and individuals no longer participating in hostilities is a clear violation of international human rights and international humanitarian law and may constitute war crimes,” Pillay stated.
She added that “impeding humanitarian assistance to civilians in desperate need may [also] amount to a war crime.”