Assad Regime responsible for crimes against humanity in Ghouta: UN

File photo showing people walk on rubble of damaged buildings in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Damascus, Syria March 30, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 21 June 2018
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Assad Regime responsible for crimes against humanity in Ghouta: UN

GENEVA: Forces loyal to Syria’s government committed what amounted to crimes against humanity, including deliberately starving civilians, during the siege of Eastern Ghouta, UN investigators said Wednesday.
The five-year siege, on the outskirts of the capital, ended in April when Damascus regained control of the rebel enclave.
“Following the end of the longest running siege in modern history... the UN Commission of Inquiry (for human rights in Syria) has condemned this method of warfare in Syria as barbaric,” the UN investigators said in a statement.
The COI, tasked by the UN Human Rights Council in March to urgently investigate recent events in Eastern Ghouta, released a 23-page report filled with horrific details of civilian suffering.
“It is completely abhorrent that besieged civilians were indiscriminately attacked, and systematically denied food and medicine,” commission head Paulo Pinheiro said in the statement.
As pro-government forces dramatically escalated their campaign to recapture the besieged enclave between February and April this year, they used tactics that were “largely unlawful in nature,” the report said.
The tactics, it said, “aimed at punishing the inhabitants of eastern Ghouta and forcing the population, collectively, to surrender or starve.”
It described thousands of desperate people holed up for months in squalid basements with dwindling food rations and few if any sanitation facilities, as bombs and missiles rained down.

The report concluded that “certain acts perpetrated by pro-Government forces during the siege laid to Eastern Ghouta, including the deliberate starvation of the civilian population as a method of warfare, amount to the crime against humanity of inhumane acts causing serious mental and physical suffering.”
The investigators slammed the widespread use of sieges throughout Syria’s seven-year conflict, which has killed more than 350,000 people.
“Hundreds of thousands of Syrian women, men and children countrywide have suffered for too long the perverse and long-lasting effects of this medieval form of warfare,” the report said.
The UN’s Syria commission, set up in 2011 shortly after the civil war began, has repeatedly accused the warring parties of crimes.
In Wednesday’s report, the commission also faulted armed opposition groups like Jaysh Al-Islam, Ahrar Al-Sham and Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham for committing “war crimes” by launching “indiscriminate attacks” on Damascus, and killing and maiming hundreds of civilians.
“Through the entire duration of the siege, armed groups also regularly arbitrarily arrested and tortured civilians in Douma, including members of religious minority groups, repeatedly committing the war crimes of cruel treatment and torture, and outrages upon personal dignity,” the report said.
The investigators, who have never been granted access to Syria, said they based their findings for their latest report on some 140 interviews conducted in person in the region and from Geneva.
They also said they analyzed photographs, video recordings, satellite imagery, and medical records, as well as reports from government and non-government sources.
The report noted that by the time government forces declared Eastern Ghouta recaptured on April 14, around 140,000 people had been displaced from their homes.
Tens of thousands of them are still being unlawfully interned by government forces in managed sites throughout the Damascus region, the report said.
Following local “evacuation agreements,” up to 50,000 civilians from Eastern Ghouta were displaced to Idlib and Aleppo governorates, it said.


South Sudan plans to build new capital in former game park

Updated 27 min 19 sec ago
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South Sudan plans to build new capital in former game park

  • The new capital, to be named Ramciel, will be located in Lakes State and will be built in an area that was previously a rhino sanctuary in the forest
  • The initial planning for the project is being funded by approximately $5 million from Morocco and will be carried out by South Korea

JUBA: South Sudan is planning to construct a new state capital in a central location in what was a wildlife park, a move that officials say will make the seat of government more accessible to the people, the government said on Wednesday.
“We’re not supposed to have our capital near the borders. The capital is the center of everything and it needs to be easy for everyone to come,” government spokesman Michael Makuei told The Associated Press.
The new capital, to be named Ramciel, will be located in Lakes State and will be built in an area that was previously a rhino sanctuary in the forest. The land is currently uninhabited and lacks basic infrastructure such as roads and electricity.
The initial planning for the project is being funded by approximately $5 million from Morocco and will be carried out by South Korea. Morrocan and Korean engineers will visit the site this week to begin demarcating areas for roads, utilities, markets, residential areas and key government installations.
Plans to move the capital from Juba, where it is now, to the new city have been in the works since before South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, said the government. Morocco’s decision to contribute to the project was discussed during King Mohammed VI’s trip to the war-torn nation in February, 2017.
The executive branch will move to Ramciel, while Juba will remain South Sudan’s commercial center as well as either the judicial or legislative hub, he said.
Five years of civil war have devastated South Sudan, killing almost 400,000 people and displacing millions. The power sharing agreement signed by warring parties in September is the latest attempt at peace, although implementation of the accord has been fraught with delays and there has been continued fighting in parts of the country.
At least one South Sudan analyst says the move to the new capital should not be a priority.
“Roads, health, education, economy and a stabilization agenda should top the list,” Augustino Ting Mayai, a researcher at the Sudd Institute in Juba.