Syria: The tragic figures behind a forgotten conflict

Syria: The tragic figures behind a forgotten conflict
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More than 191,000 people have been killed since the start of the conflict. The figures have just been released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. It is a total which is probably less than the actual number of victims. Among the dead are at least 8,800 children.

As well as those grim statistics and almost three and a half years after the start of the conflict Syria has become the country with the highest number of displaced people.

More than two and a half million Syrians have been registered as refugees in neighbouring countries – six and a half million displaced persons.

The UN has pointed the finger at the international community for failing to mobilise and to reach a common strategy despite the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding before its eyes.

“The killers, destroyers and torturers in Syria have been empowered and emboldened by the international paralysis. There are serious allegations that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed time and time again with impunity,” said UN Human Rights Spokesman Rupert Colville.

What started as a popular revolt on the streets in 2011 in the wake of the “Arab Spring” turned into a civil war.

In the summer of 2013 when chemical attacks were launched against civilians the West threatened to launch an international drive to punish the regime in Damascus.

Actions did not follow the verbal warnings. The international escalation culminated last September with an agreement to dismantle the chemical arsenal.

That process was completed a few days ago but doubts still exist that Bashar al-Assad has really delivered on his commitment to get rid of all the weapons.

At the same time diplomats worked to create a political solution to the conflict. But dialogue between the opposition and representatives was fruitless.

Even military intervention in Syria is not straightforward. The West needed the approval of the UN Security Council but Russia and China exercised vetoes.

“Short-term geopolitical considerations and national interests, narrowly defined, have repeatedly taken precedence over intolerable human suffering and grave breaches of – and long-term threats to – international peace and security,” said Navy Pillay, outgoing UN Human Rights Chief.

On May 13 Lakhdar Brahimi, the Algerian diplomat charged with trying to mediate between the regime and opposition resigned. After nearly two years his efforts to find a peace process ended in vain.

Brahimi’s departure was a blow and a symbol of diplomatic failure, leaving a solution to the war in Syria seemingly still beyond the horizon.

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