U.N. Warns Russia Over Syria Air Strikes

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein warned Russia on Tuesday over the use of incendiary weapons in Syria’s besieged enclave of eastern Aleppo, and said crimes by one side did not justify illegal acts by the other.

Zeid said that the situation in Aleppo demanded bold new initiatives “including proposals to limit the use of the veto by the permanent members of the Security Council”, which would enable the U.N. body to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“Such a referral would be more than justified given the rampant and deeply shocking impunity that has characterized the conflict and the magnitude of the crimes that have been committed, some of which may indeed amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Zeid said in a statement.

Syria’s government and its allies had undertaken a “pattern of attacks” against targets with special protection under international humanitarian law, including medical units, aid workers and water-pumping stations, he said.

Russia is a key player in the Syrian civil war by virtue of its military support for President Bashar al-Assad and its role as one of five veto-holding powers on the Security Council.

The use of indiscriminate weapons such as incendiary weapons in heavily populated areas was of particularly grave concern, Zeid said, drawing a parallel with the battles of Warsaw, Stalingrad and Dresden during World War Two.

There is no statute of limitations on international crimes, his spokesman Rupert Colville said.

“I remind all State parties to Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, including the Russian Federation, that they are strictly prohibited from using incendiary weapons in airstrikes on heavily populated areas, and that the use of such weapons by ground forces is severely restricted,” Zeid said.

The rebels’ use of inaccurate “hell-fire cannons”, homemade mortars that fire gas cylinders packed with explosives and shrapnel, was also totally unacceptable, he said.

Designating the enemy as a “terrorist organization” was not an excuse to ignore the laws of war, Zeid said.

Read More: reuters

Buhari Invites U.N As Negotiator For Chibok Girls

President Muhammadu Buhari has told the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, that Nigeria would welcome intermediaries from the global body as part of his administration’s commitment to swapping the abducted schoolgirls from Chibok with Boko Haram fighters in custody.

Speaking during a bilateral meeting with the UN scribe at the sidelines of the 71st UN General Assembly in New York, President Buhari said the Nigerian government was willing to bend over backwards, to get the Chibok girls released from captivity.

He said: “The challenge is in getting credible and bona fide leadership of Boko Haram to discuss with,”

“The split in the insurgent group is not helping matters. Government had reached out, ready to negotiate, but it became difficult to identify credible leaders. We will welcome intermediaries such as UN outfits, to step in.”

The President, in a statement by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, also reiterated that the teachings of Boko Haram were far from being Islamic, as neither Islam, nor any other religion, advocates hurting the weak and innocent.

Read More:

Chibok girls: Buhari invites U.N as negotiator

U.N. Calls For 48-Hour Ceasefire In Aleppo To Avoid Humanitarian Catastrophe

The U.N. humanitarian chief on Monday urged all combatants in Aleppo to agree to a 48-hour pause to allow delivery of desperately needed aid, warning that otherwise the world risks seeing a “humanitarian catastrophe unparalleled in the over five years of bloodshed” in Syria.

Stephen O’Brien said Aleppo is being bombed every day, including a dozen new attacks on Monday, and has become “the apex of horror” in “the greatest crisis of our time.”

He told the U.N. Security Council, which has been deeply divided over Syria, that “you have the power with a pen — a simple pen stroke — to allow food to people.”

O’Brien said the U.N. asked to deliver aid to nearly 1 million people in besieged and hard-to-reach areas in August, but the Syrian government approved less than 50 percent of the requests, denying aid to rebel-held eastern Aleppo and several other besieged areas.

O’Brien said that not one aid convoy has moved yet due to fighting, insecurity and bureaucratic requirements, and the end of the month is just nine days away.

Russia, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, said last Thursday it was ready to back the U.N. call for weekly 48-hour cease-fires in Aleppo, provided aid convoys travel to both rebel-controlled and government-controlled parts of the city.

U.S. deputy ambassador Michele Sison reiterated American support for the humanitarian pauses in her speech to the council, saying “it is imperative that all armed groups in Aleppo respect these pauses.” She urged Russia to follow its unilateral declaration “with genuine steps to support regular and sustained access to Aleppo.”

O’Brien welcomed the Russian announcement but also stressed that “we need the agreement of all parties to let us do our job.”

“In Aleppo we risk seeing a humanitarian catastrophe unparalleled in the over five years of bloodshed and carnage in the Syrian conflict,” he said. “Once again, I cannot stress strongly enough the need for a 48-hour pause in fighting to be approved by all sides and come into effect, so that safe and sustained humanitarian access is opened to all areas of Aleppo.”

The U.N. humanitarian chief said he and his office are working with all sides seeking to ensure that the Russian offer can be turned into “a comprehensive pause.”

Rebel-held eastern Aleppo, where up to 275,000 people live, has been almost entirely cut off from vital supplies including food, water, medicine and electricity for over a month, O’Brien said, while access to the estimated 1.5 million people in government-controlled western Aleppo “remains extremely difficult.”

The U.N. has found a new route into western Aleppo and has delivered some aid, and it is preparing 20 trucks to deliver food and other supplies to eastern Aleppo as soon as a cease-fire takes place, he said.

“This is a race against time, as fighting rages on, with ever more shocking reports of bombed hospitals and wrecked schools,” O’Brien said. “Electricity is out, water is scarce, and movement is restricted.”

He repeated his appeals for U.N. action, not just on Aleppo, but to end the war in Syria saying: “When hospital attacks have become the new normal, when medieval sieges of entire cities and neighborhoods have become a lasting reality for hundreds of thousands of people, this council cannot look the other way.”

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin urged all those with influence to spur the opposition to move forward to a political settlement.

“Without that and without effectively combatting terrorism the necessary radical improvement in the humanitarian situation in Syria is impossible,” Churkin said.

Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari agreed, stressing that a political solution must be Syrian-led “without any external preconditions or interference” and must be parallel to “fighting terrorism.”

Credit: AP/ Time