Into its third year of breaking the Laws of War – and every grave violation of children’s rights – another tipping point has presented itself in the Syria conflict.
The Law of War states that all parties to conflict must distinguish between combatants and civilians at all times. There can be no stronger flouting of this law than the indiscriminate attacks that have punctuated this conflict throughout.
This latest episode in which tens of hundreds of people are reported to have been killed – due to the alleged use of chemical weapons – is an intolerable example.
Half of the victims are likely to be children. This is unacceptable, illegal and alarming. And it is not an isolated incident – this war has claimed the lives of over an estimated 100,000 people, a huge majority of which are civilians.
As one father recently told War Child: “There is random bombing everywhere in Syria – without targets”
Almost one year ago to the day, Obama issued a red line warning about the use of chemical weapons in Syria:
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus…That would change my equation. . . . We’re monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans.”
President Obama, August 2012
A year has elapsed – does this ‘red line’ sit distant in a speechwriters archive? What were these ‘contingency plans’ and where are they?
These are the obvious questions to which everyone should be demanding an answer. (Pictured below, ‘Sam’, the face of War Child’s Syria campaign in 2013).
War Child believe the red line was surely crossed the minute this war disregarded the rights of civilians, especially children, to play no role in the fighting. This happened years ago. The debate over chemical weapons is pivotal but it also must not overshadow the fundamental reality: this is about human suffering. Children, babies, mothers, fathers and grandparents have been killed, maimed, raped, tortured, abducted, used as human shields, forced to flee their homes, to watch as their loved ones are attacked and killed. The list is endless. A mother who had recently become a refugee told War Child “every bad thing you can imagine has happened in Syria”.
War Child has been saying for over a year that the Syria conflict has breached international laws, including in the first comprehensive report about grave violations to children: “The conflict in Syria is distinct in the degree to which legal instruments, and the International Community who signed up to them, have proved completely unable to furnish any measure of security for children.” In March we called upon the UK Government, its allies and its ‘opponents’, Russia and China, to disarm their political battle and take notice of the humanity underneath it.
The time for action has always been ‘NOW’. But if the International Community and the United Nations are not to lose face for a role of protecting humanity, every single excuse has run out. The potential use of chemical weapons must be thoroughly and transparently investigated without delay. The UN Security Council must take urgent and decisive steps to seek a political solution to end the tragic scale of human suffering inside Syria and its neighbouring regions – particularly for children’s whose suffering has been among the most unrivalled in history. For more on Syria, and to donate, please visit War Child now.