UN report on Syria conflict highlights inhumane detention of women and children

OCHA/Hedinn Halldorsson OCHA staff assist an Iraqi woman taking her four-day-old grandson to a health clinic in Al Hol camp, Syria. (16 June 2019)

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


As the people of north-west Syria face intensifying violence, tens of thousands of women and children continue to be kept in “inhumane conditions” in a remote camp on the other side of the country, UN-appointed independent investigators said on Wednesday.

Describing the situation at Al Hol camp as “appalling”, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria called on the international community to take action.

Statelessness risk for those held in Al Hol camp

Most of the 3,500 children held there lack birth registration documents, the Commission said in its latest report on the conflict.

They risk being left stateless because Member States appear unwilling to repatriate them, fearing extremist links, panel chair Paulo Pinheiro explained.

“Up to 70,000 individuals remain interned in deplorable and inhumane conditions at Al Hol camp, the vast majority of whom are women and children under the age of 12,” he said.

Making an impassioned appeal on behalf of older children from 12 to 18, questioning whether allegations and suspicions of terrorist affiliation levelled against them were correct, he said that the Commission “finds this completely appalling.”

According to the Commission’s report, the humanitarian response to needs at Al Hol “remains woefully inadequate”, with hundreds of preventable deaths recorded.

At least 390 children have died from malnutrition or untreated infected wounds, the investigators said.

In addition, much-needed psychological support is only provided on a limited basis to Yazidi women and children, who fled ISIL massacres in neighbouring Iraq in 2014.

A significant number of those interned at Al-Hol camp also include tens of thousands of people who fled the bombardment of Baghouz town – an ISIL stronghold in eastern Syria – straining further the already severely overstretched humanitarian resources.

‘Enormous strain’ to deliver services

Reacting to the Commission’s findings, the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said it shared the panel’s concerns, adding that more than 30 humanitarian partners face “enormous strain” to deliver services in Al Hol camp.

“People who fled to the camp have suffered under ISIL for years, and many arrived at the camp in poor health”, OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke said, noting that as the camp expanded from 10,000 people “to over 70,000 in a matter of months”, humanitarian organizations ramped up their response.

While needs in Al Hol remain high; services have gradually improved, Mr. Laerke noted, particularly in terms of health, with three new field hospitals in the camp.

Camp managers ‘not interested in future of children’

Echoing Mr. Pinheiro’s appeal for international assistance, panel member Karen Abuzayd insisted that it was not a case of blaming one side or another.

“Those who are in charge of these camps have limited resources as well,” she said. “I mean they’re put in places where there’s not good people in charge”, she asserted,  “or people who are really interested in the future of these children, or anybody else in these camps, women as well.”

Highlighting the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which explicitly calls on States to protect children and register them immediately after birth, Mr. Pinheiro maintained that there was a “shared responsibility of several Member States” concerning the state of the camp. “I think it would be unfair to blame those who are holding those people there”.

Updating journalists on the conflict elsewhere in the country – particularly in Idlib, the last opposition-held bastion and Deir Ez Zor in the east – Mr. Pinheiro insisted that civilians continue to bear the brunt of hostilities.

Over 13 million now displaced by conflict

Well over eight years of war have now displaced 13 million people, according to the Commission of Inquiry report, amid violence involving Government-backed forces, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS) opposition fighters and the US-led international coalition, as well as Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

In Idlib, “(HTS) terrorists attacked military positions of pro-government forces and indiscriminately launched rockets towards Government-held areas”, Mr. Pinheiro said, “killing and maiming dozens of civilians in the countryside of Aleppo, Hama and elsewhere”.

This was despite an agreement between Russia and Turkey in September 2018 to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib, he noted.

In an effort to oust HTS fighters, “aerial and ground offensives by pro-Government forces to oust those militants and affiliated armed groups from Idlib, northern Hama, Latakia and western Aleppo escalated dramatically” in February, Mr. Pinheiro added, “destroying infrastructure essential to the survival of the civilian population, forcing almost half a million civilians to flee”.

Violence targeted at terrorists ‘hit hospitals, markets, schools’

According to the Commission’s report, this violence destroyed infrastructure “essential to the survival of the civilian population, including hospitals, markets, educational facilities and agricultural resources, and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee”.

The Commission’s 21-page report also highlights hostilities in the east that included the “large-scale operations” by the US-led international coalition and the Syrian Democratic Forces causing “near complete destruction of widespread destruction” of towns and villages in and around Hajin and Baghuz in Deir ez Zor, Mr. Pinheiro noted.

In areas reclaimed by the Government – such as Dar’a in the south and Duma near Damascus – civilians, including recent returnees, have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, the report maintains. Hundreds of thousands of civilians in both locations also lack adequate access to water, electricity and education, the report adds.          

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Syria’s groundbreaking constitutional talks: ‘a clear success of mediation’ says Guterres in Turkey

10 million Yemenis ‘one step away from famine’, UN food relief agency calls for ‘unhindered access’ to frontline regions

“911, What’s your emergency?”

Nearly a third of the globe is now on Facebook – chart of the day

Climate change is forcing 20 million people a year from their homes, Oxfam says

4 ways Africa can prepare its youth for the digital economy

Germany objects to EU Commission’s plan for a Eurozone bank deposits insurance scheme but Berlin could go along

Alcohol abuse kills three million people a year, most of them men – WHO report

2013, a Political Odyssey: What future for Italy?

This is why mental health should be a political priority

Commission welcomes European Parliament adoption of EU4Health programme

Commission welcomes agreement on the modernisation of EU export controls

7 ways to break the fast fashion habit – and save the planet

ECB again to subsidize euro area banks with more than one trillion euro

Thomas Cook bankruptcy: Better consumer and employee protection needed

MWC 2016 LIVE: Ingenu steps up efforts to build LPWA networks across the globe

Greener tourism: Greater collaboration needed to tackle rising emissions

How digital entrepreneurs will help shape the world after the COVID-19 pandemic

MEPs back plans to promote water reuse for agricultural irrigation

The ECB proposes a swift solution for SMEs’ financing

Working fewer hours makes you more efficient. Here’s the proof

COVID-19: A coordinated EU health strategy needed, say MEPs

‘BioSolar Leaves’ are better at cleaning the air than trees, say the technology’s developers

EU leaders agree to delay Brexit until 31 October

Yemen war ‘a test of our humanity’, and we’re ‘badly failing’ warns UN Children’s Fund chief

German Presidency outlines priorities to EP committees

The refugee crisis seen through the eyes of a young doctor from Turkey

EU, Latin America and the Caribbean: Partnering for prosperity, democracy, resilience and global governance

Collective action to enable sustainable growth will be critical to end tropical deforestation

Adoption of new rules to better protect children caught in cross-border parental disputes

Arrest of three Libyans wanted for grave crimes ‘would send strong and necessary message’ to victims, urges top Prosecutor

State aid: Commission approves around €36 million Romanian rescue aid to state-owned flag carrier TAROM

COVID-19: from the chaos of the pandemic to the difficulties in vaccination

Ecofin: ‘The Friday battle’ for the banking union

Haiti cholera outbreak ‘stopped in its tracks’

The UK option: An overarching alternative for the whole Brexit options

Security Council gravely concerned by Ebola outbreak in DR Congo, demands immediate end to violence hampering response

Here’s how to achieve growth in the Middle East and North Africa

Civil society groups matter for Cambodia’s sustainable development: UN expert

European Institute of Innovation and Technology: Commission welcomes political agreement on strategy for 2021-2027

The von der Leyen Commission: for a Union that strives for more

Number of MEPs to be reduced after EU elections in 2019

The challenge of palliative care in universal health coverage

The world needs carbon-neutral flying. Here’s how to bring it one step closer

Facts, not fear, will stop COVID-19 – so how should we talk about it?

Concorde is a reminder that the only way for innovation is up

Parlamentarians to “break up” with reality in the Google antitrust case

Implementation of tax transparency initiative delivering concrete and impressive results

The world has made spectacular progress in every measure of well-being. So why does almost no one know about it?

EU guidance on the handling of visa applications from residents of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions

MEPs to prioritise environment and climate action in next long-term budget

GDP growth slows in most G20 economies in third quarter of 2019

This is why retail is such a sore point in India-US trade relations

Khashoggi murder trials must public and meet international standards, UN expert urges

UN chief seeking ‘renewed commitment’ to global rules and values, as world leaders head to New York

Agriculture and Fisheries Council

A reality check on inclusive innovation

Austerity lovers to put a break on Renzi’s growth vision for Europe? the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

This man is turning cities into giant sponges to save lives

4 key trends on how COVID has impacted women in business

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s