Syrian and Ukrainian refugees should receive 'same treatment', says UN commission chair

Paulo Pinheiro, UN Syria Commissioner.
Paulo Pinheiro, UN Syria Commissioner. Copyright FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP or licensors
Copyright FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP or licensors
By Nima Ghadakpour
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More than 300,000 Syrian civilians have died in the last ten years of war in the Middle Eastern country.


According to the United Nations, more than 300,000 Syrian citizens have died in the last ten years of the war that is still ravaging the country. The conflict, which started in 2011, is nowhere close to an end.

In an interview with Euronews, the UN Syria Commission chair Paulo Pinheiro said these figures -- which do not include combatants -- reflect the gravity of the situation.

"Something that the report reveals very clearly is the absence of the protection of civilians. No faction, no party in the conflict in Syria cares about the protection of the lives of the civilians. That is the reality," Pinheiro said.

He also regretted what he said are "depressing" double standards of hosting refugees, when comparing the treatment received by Syrians and Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion of their homeland in late February.

"There is openness and generosity vis-a-vis the Ukraine that I don't criticise at all. They deserved it. But I would like very much that the same treatment will be applied to the Syrian refugees," Pinheiro stated.

War crimes in hands of national courts

Faced with millions of Ukrainians headed for EU member states, the bloc activated a 2001 rule called the Temporary Protection Directive in early March. The law grants residence, healthcare, and the right to work or study to Ukrainian refugees and their families fleeing the country for a year and up to three years.

Despite being affected by war as well, Syrians never benefited from such a law -- not even in the darkest moments of the refugee crisis in 2015.

Asked about the possibility of bringing those responsible for the war crimes committed in Syria to the international criminal courts, Pinheiro recognised that national courts will be the ones taking the lead.

"For the time being, I don't see any possibility on the horizon for the referral to the International Criminal Court. And in the present international juncture, it's impossible because [...] most likely the veto for this referral will be repeated in the [UN] Security Council," he said.

Russia and China have been behind a number of UNSC vetos blocking Western-backed resolutions on the war in Syria that they claimed were biased, including those requesting investigations and trials for war crimes. 

"What is positive is that so many European countries are prosecuting and in some cases condemning people that committed the crimes against humanity or war crimes."

Last January, a German court found a Syrian colonel guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to life in prison.

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