As the battle for Aleppo draws to a close, United Nations humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland says the Syrian and Russian governments must be held responsible for atrocities committed by militias loyal to President Assad.
The UN human rights office says it has reports of abuses, including that the army and allied Iraqi militiamen summarily killed at least 82 civilians in captured city districts.
It comes as the rout of rebels from more than half of their ever-shrinking territory in Aleppo sparked a mass flight of civilians and insurgents, a crisis the UN said was a “complete meltdown of humanity”.
The United Nations wants external observers allowed – saying it is the only way to allay fears that massive crimes are underway.
“Civilians have paid a brutal price during this conflict, and we are filled with the deepest foreboding for those who remain in this last hellish corner of opposition-held eastern Aleppo,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news conference in Geneva.
“Yesterday evening, we received further deeply disturbing reports that numerous bodies were lying in the streets, that residents were unable to retrieve them due to the intense bombardment and their fear of being shot on sight.
“In all, as of yesterday evening, we have received reports of pro-Government forces killing at least 82 civilians (including 11 women and 13 children) in four different neighbourhoods — Bustan al-Qasr, al-Ferdous, al-Kallaseh, and al-Saleheen,” Colville said, naming the Iraqi armed group Harakat al-Nujaba as reportedly involved in the killings.
One rebel commander has urged the US and Turkey to act quickly to save civilians.
“My message is that they must take a decision to save these people who are stuck here, these civilians, these children,” Abu Ali Saqour of the Jabha Shamiya group told Reuters, the sound of explosions audible in the background as he spoke via Whatsapp from eastern Aleppo.
“No state has helped this people in any way, my message to the world is to get these people out of this disaster-stricken city, at least the civilians,” he said, singling out the United States and Turkey as governments with the power to do something.
“Any state with power in its hands must take a decision as soon as possible to evacuate these people,” he said.
France, meanwhile, warned Russia that it risked being complicit in acts of “vengeance and terror”.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said it was more urgent than ever to establish a cessation of hostilities.
“The backers of the regime, starting with Russia, cannot allow this logic of vengeance and terror without taking the risk of being complicit,” Ayrault said.
“I call on the United Nations to use without delay all the mechanisms to establish the truth of what is happening in Aleppo so that the international community does not let these crimes remain unpunished.”
_with Reuters _