United Nations: Assad’s Barrel Bombs Continue to Kill Syrian Civilians

2015-06-21T131116Z_1405909857_GF10000135044_RTRMADP_3_MIDEAST-CRISIS-SYRIA
Civil defense members and civilians search for survivors in an area activists said was hit by barrel bombs dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Assad, in Aleppo, Syria, on June 21, 2015. Abdalrhman Ismail/Reutes

On the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, the Security Council heard testimony Friday about the devastating effects of barrel bombs and other indiscriminate weapons being used against civilians in Syria, according to François Delattre, the French ambassador to the United Nations.

Closed to the public, the hearings took place two days after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the Security Council to take “urgent action” on Syria. Ban said the country is experiencing “continuing atrocities and human rights abuses” on a daily basis, Reuters reports. The meeting did not result in any action being taken by the council.

Nongovernmental organizations researching and working in Syria, including Human Rights Watch and the Syrian Civil Defense, testified during the meeting. Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations special envoy on Syria, said in a video message that the Syrian government is responsible for the use of barrel bombs and that at the rate the weapons are being used, there won’t be any civilians left in Syria. The Security Council should stop the use of barrel bombs, de Mistura added.

More than 1,331 civilians have been killed in bombing and weapons attacks since May, which was the deadliest month in Syria since the war began in 2011, according to the Violations Documentation Center in Syria, an organization that monitors human rights violations in the country. More than 70 percent of the attacks were from the Syrian government, according to the center. The use of barrel bombs in Syria, including those against health care facilities and ambulances, is “becoming one of the prime causes of death in Syria,” according to a concept note released ahead of the Security Council meeting and emailed to Newsweek.

“These attacks are unfortunately led by all parties, but we know that the massive use of barrel bombs by the Syrian authorities is responsible for the majority of civilian casualties,” Delattre said following the meeting. “This primitive, crude, cheap method of war is by nature indiscriminate, and it is inhumane.”

Despite the Security Council’s adoption last year of Resolution 2139, which bans the use of barrel bombs and called for an increase in humanitarian aid access in Syria, the weapons continue to be used. The council failed to refer the war, which entered its fifth year in March, to the International Criminal Court last year. Permanent council members China and Russia, allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad, vetoed the referral along with three separate resolutions implementing sanctions against Assad, Reuters reports.

More than 230,000 people have been killed in Syria since 2011, when civil war broke out between the Assad government and numerous opposition groups. Over the past year, ISIS has become embroiled in the fight as well. “It’s our moral and political duty here to try everything we can to put an end to this situation,” said Delattre, adding that a political solution is a key goal in Syria.

The U.S. and the U.K., both permanent members of the Security Council, condemned the ongoing use of barrel bombs, according to tweets from Philippe Bolopion, U.N. and crisis advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, who was in the audience during the meeting. 

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