Geneva- As a result of the siege imposed by Syrian regime forces for nearly five years, the situation in eastern Ghouta in the Syrian countryside is catastrophic as civilians are suffering from severe shortages of medicine, medical supplies and food. Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor considers what is happening to be a form of collective punishment practiced by the Syrian regime, with little attention from the rest of the world.
Most of the eastern cities of Ghouta (Douma, Zamaleka, Haza, Kafarbanda and Arebeen), home to more than 350,000 civilians, suffer from a suffocating siege imposed by the Syrian regime since October 2012. The siege was tightened in 2013 and recently in 2017, causing a serious humanitarian crisis accompanied by violent armed clashes among militias in Ghouta.
Despite the agreements to achieve calm and reduce escalation, the siege has caused the death of hundreds of civilians in Ghouta, most of whom are children. In the past four days, three children have died due to malnutrition and the lack of medical treatment.
"If the situation continues, the lives of hundreds of children in al-Ghouta will be at risk of death," said Sandra Owen, Euro-Med Monitor's spokeswoman. "Many children have become emaciated due to poor nutrition, including at least at least 1,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition, while lactating mothers do not get good health care or proper nourishment," she added.
Euro-Med Monitor expresses concern over the deterioration of civilian living conditions in eastern Ghouta, emphasizing that this situation will worsen after a move by the Syrian regime forces in February in which they took control of the tunnels through which humanitarian aid passes. Assad's forces also closed the crossings and the roads, denying movement of goods and assistance to the cities of Al-Gouta, including those that gain entrance through the United Nations agencies. The last of the aid arrived over a month ago, meanwhile, the regime's forces continue bombing and systematically targeting civilians, foreshadowing a humanitarian catastrophe.
The Syrian regime's actions against the eastern region of Ghouta, supported by the Iranian alliance, only emphasize a policy of collective punishment practiced by the regime's forces over the past years. Depriving civilians of food, their basic needs and exposing them to daily and often indiscriminate aerial and artillery bombardments goes beyond a serious violation of international humanitarian laws, amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The distinction and discrimination of combatants and non-combatants is a cornerstone of international humanitarian law. It also guarantees prohibiting the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, or intentionally obstructing relief and medical supplies.
The Euro-Med Monitor calls on the Syrian authorities to abide by the truce agreements and end the siege on eastern Ghouta and other areas populated by civilians in Syria, and to allow the various bodies of the United Nations and their field partners to deliver food, fuel, medicine, and other surgical and medical supplies to civilians in need.
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor also calls on the Security Council to activate its decision on the delivery of humanitarian aid, open a humanitarian corridor for the trapped in eastern Ghouta and provide the necessary assistance by land or air as soon as possible.