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We collectively failed the people of Syria – UN Secretary-General

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) addresses the Security Council on the situation in Syria. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

With Syrian government troops closing in on the remaining pockets of resistance in Aleppo, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told an emergency meeting of the international organization Security Council that it had failed to act on early warnings about the ensuing carnage in the northern Syrian metropolis.

He said over the past months there was an “abundance” of early warning – including those from his special envoy for Syria, Steffan De Mistura,- to the 15-member body regarding the situation in Aleppo and that the city could be destroyed before the end of the year.

 

“…the General Assembly has overwhelmingly voted to urge preventive action by this Council on Aleppo,” Ban said. “But when presented with opportunities to do so over the last three months, this Council has failed to do so.”

“I have said before that we have collectively failed the people of Syria,” he added. “The Security Council has not exercised its preeminent responsibility with regard to the maintenance of international peace and security.”

UPDATE: On Wednesday morning, Dec 14, it was reported that shooting between opposing forces had erupted in Aleppo once more. With the shattering of the fragile ceasefire, evacuation of civilians was stopped.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) addresses the Security Council on the situation in Syria. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) addresses the Security Council on the situation in Syria. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

In Canada, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan called on the Syrian government and Russia to end the “horrific crisis” in Aleppo.

“At the end of the day, the human suffering is unimaginable,” Sajjan was quoted as saying in a report by the Globe and Mail.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that government forces and their allies were reportedly entering civilian homes and killing civilians.

“Multiple sources have reported that pro-Government forces killed at least 82 civilians, including 11 women and 13 children, in the Bustan al-Qasr, al-Ferdous, al-Kallaseh, and al-Saleheen neighbourhoods yesterday,” the release said. “Thousands of people who remain in areas under the control of armed groups are at risk of grave violations, including detentions, torture, and killings.”

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During the last 48 hours he had seen the collapse of the armed opposition front lines “leaving them with only five per cent of their original territory in the city,” the U.N. chief said. government forces and their allies are also reportedly entering civilian homes and killing people.

 

“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,” said U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N. told the Security Council that the Syrian government had established control over eastern Aleppo. He said that military activities in the city have ceased. It was also reported that a ceasefire and evacuation agreement have been reached in the eastern part of the war-torn city.

The Aleppo Media Centre reported on its Facebook page Tuesday night, more than 150 civilians were being prepared for evacuation from the “besieged neighbourhoods to the western countryside of Aleppo.”

However, the Syrian government’s victory in Aleppo was achieved through repeated bombardment of the city, said Ban and that civilian deaths and injuries “continue at a brutal pace.” He said the U.N. has received reports of scores of civilians killed in the bombings and summary executions by government forces.

Child in Aleppo ruins (Photo courtesy of United Nations)

“We have seen shocking videos of a body burning in the street, ostensibly after aerial bombardment, [the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights] has received reports of civilians, including women and children, in four neighbourhoods being rounded up and executed,” the Secretary-General said.

Ban said that since September, the Council failed to adopt three resolutions that could have facilitated a truce and the early evacuation of civilians as well as the entry aid into the city.

He told the Council while “history will not easily absolve us” this failure should compel the U.N. to “do all we can to stop the carnage” and that the players in the conflict reach a resolution.

“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.

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