Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

The Flagrant Violation of Humanitarian Law

The humanitarian law has been violated widely around the globe. Non-combatants are left at the mercy of terrorism and militancy in recent years and the emergence of the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) posed more serious threat to the rights and dignity of civilians, mainly in Syria and Iraq. The ISIL group killed civilians, including women and children, in cold blood on the grounds of their caste, color and creed. Life has turned really cheap and the tragic stories of violence and bloodshed continue unabated.
No wonder, terrorist networks have been changed into a global threat. Militant fighters seek to practice upon their own fundamental ideology. In other words, warring factions neither know nor care about international law which led to the gross violation of human rights. The graph of civilian casualties heightens in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. as a result of unmitigated insurgency.
One of the worst chemical bombings in Syria turned a northern rebel-held area into a toxic kill zone on Tuesday. Hospitals across Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province are overwhelmed with casualties from a suspected chemical attack. Dozens of people, including children, died – some writhing, choking, gasping or foaming at the mouth – after breathing in poison that possibly contained a nerve agent or other banned chemicals. This attacks seems to be the largest and most toxic chemical attack in Syria since August 2013, when more than 1,000 people were killed in the Damascus suburbs by the banned toxin sarin.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the monitoring organization, on Wednesday put the death toll at 99 people, including 37 children.
The government of Mr. Assad, who renounced chemical weapons nearly four years ago after a large chemical attack that American intelligence agencies concluded was carried out by his forces, denied that his military had been responsible, as he has done every time chemical munitions have been used in Syria.
A spokesman for Russian Defense Ministry, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said Syrian warplanes had struck an insurgent storehouse containing toxic substances to be used in chemical weapons.
The attack in the early hours of Tuesday morning in Khan Sheikhoun drew widespread international condemnation, with the UN saying it would investigate the bombing raid as a possible war crime. Incredulous over the chemical assault, humanitarian groups demanded action from the United Nations Security Council, where partisan divides over who is to blame for the Syrian war have paralyzed its members almost since the conflict began in 2011.
“The images and reports coming from Idlib today leave me shocked, saddened and outraged. These types of weapons are banned by international law because they represent an intolerable barbarism,” Peter Salama, executive director of the UN agency’s Health Emergencies Program, is cited as saying.
It is not only Syria in which civilians sustain large casualties but also Iraq. According to reports, Dozens of people have been killed in a series of attacks in the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit. The overnight attacks on Wednesday came after several suspected ISIL fighters infiltrated Tikrit, around 170km north of the capital, Baghdad. The attackers, who reportedly wore police uniforms and used a police vehicle to enter the city, targeted a security checkpoint and the house of a police colonel, who was killed with four members of his family. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but ISIL fighters have carried out similar attacks in Tikrit in the past, in an apparent diversionary tactic as Iraqi forces push ahead with a US-backed offensive to dislodge the group from the remaining districts under its control in Mosul, further north. The ISIL group seized Tikrit during a lightning offensive that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in the summer of 2014, but Iraqi forces recaptured it the following year.
The heavy casualties sustained by civilians in war-torn countries are highly outrageous. Despite scores of international instruments regarding human rights and dignity, the rights of people are violated in the worst possible way. The rule of war is turned a blind eye. Syria’s war is likely to be the deadliest ones in the history of mankind which forced countless numbers of Syrians to take refuge to foreign countries.
The attack also seemed likely to dampen peace talks that have been overseen by the United Nations in Geneva and by Russia and Turkey in Astana, Kazakhstan. If the talks come to a standstill, the civilian casualties will mushroom to a great extent and Syrians will pay high sacrifices. After all, the firm foothold of the ISIL group will cause the war linger and the group is believed to create barriers before peace talks since not being involved in the negotiation.
Those who are involved in the war crime should be prosecuted. The international community will have to investigate such flagrant violations of humanitarian law and bring the criminals into justice. To protect human rights, dismantling terrorist networks, mainly the ISIL, is a crying need. Secondly, the talks between warring sides should be brokered as soon as possible. A Persian proverb says that when a fire starts it will burn both the damp and the dry. It means that war and violence will kill both soldiers and civilians indiscriminately. So, ceasing fire is a must for protecting human rights.