HEADLINES

Syria: UN Report – Assad Edited Out Evidence Of War Crimes

BY Roy Gutman, January 29, 2016. First appeared in Foreign Policy (01/27/16).

Syria: Starvation is another weapon of war, and children are the most vulnerable victims. As Syrian civilians starved to death, U.N. officials let the government in Damascus alter its master plan for saving lives. Its title is prosaic and its content dry, but the stark statistics in the U.N.’s annual summary of relief programs tell the story of Syria’s humanitarian nightmare. Syria: Starvation is another weapon of war, and children are the most vulnerable victims. As Syrian civilians starved to death, U.N. officials let the government in Damascus alter its master plan for saving lives. Its title is prosaic and its content dry, but the stark statistics in the U.N.’s annual summary of relief programs tell the story of Syria’s humanitarian nightmare.

United Nations Humanitarian Response Plan: Its title is prosaic and its content dry, but the stark statistics in the U.N.’s annual summary of relief programs tell the story of Syria’s humanitarian nightmare.

Syria is a country on life support

  • 13.6 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance,
  • Syrians are being displaced at a rate of 50 families per hour every day, and
  • at least 1 million people in displaced persons camps receive no international aid.
Syrian child, (Photo: Reform4Syria)

Syrian refugee child. (Photo: Reform4Syria).

But to close readers of the U.N. Humanitarian Response Plan, which was published on Dec. 29, (2016) the big surprise was what the 64-page document failed to mention.

The United Nations, after consulting the Syrian government, altered dozens of passages and omitted pertinent information to paint the government of Bashar al-Assad in a more favorable light.

By comparing the final document to an earlier draft that was obtained by Foreign Policy,

  • (removed were) 10 references to “sieged” or “besieged” areas, such as that in Madaya;
  • (removed is) southwestern town in Syria that saw 23 people die of starvation over several months before the arrival of a U.N. aid convoy in mid-January.
  • Gone was any mention of the program to clear mines and unexploded [sic] ordnance, such as the “barrel bombs” the regime drops indiscriminately on populated areas.
  • Gone were all mentions of Syrian relief groups that shepherd the aid to civilians in rebel-held areas.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) indicated that the alterations were made at the behest of the Syrian government.

It is standard procedure in each country for the UN to consult with the government of the country,” wrote Linda Tom, an OCHA spokeswoman, when asked about the deletion of references to “siege” or “besieged.” Amanda Pitt, OCHA’s chief spokeswoman, affirmed that point.

  • I assume it was done in consultation with a range of partners including the Government, as is normal practice,” she said in an email (to Foreign Policy). 

OCHA declined to make any senior official available for an interview or to respond to further questions.

Syria: Two little boys on the dirt floor with a bowl of food. (Photo: Google).

Syria: Two little boys on the dirt floor with a bowl of food. (Photo: Google).

The U.N.’s deletion of any mention of sieges is particularly noteworthy, because the Madaya crisis is far from over.

Although the Syrian government allowed U.N. agencies […] to truck in food and some medical supplies,

Hezbollah and Syrian army forces (then) restricted the delivery of fuel, allowing only a fraction of what the U.N. had planned.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and the regime blocked the evacuation of hundreds of people with acute malnutrition who doctors want taken to hospitals, relief officials said.

Thirteen more civilians died after the arrival of the aid convoys, Mohammad Yusuf, coordinator of a local Madaya medical unit, told (Foreign Policy) on Wednesday.

The international body has come under widespread criticism for staying silent for months on Madaya until the photos of children who had died of starvation began to circulate.

The U.N. ordinarily says little about the situation in regions under siege, preferring quiet diplomacy — but that approach didn’t work in 2015,

  • as the Syrian government turned down nine out of 10 requests to send food and medicine to areas that the U.N. classified as besieged or “hard to reach.”

In a “Flash Update” made public on Jan. 17, however, U.N. officials disclosed that they had been unable to obtain approval for medical evacuations.

The update said at one point that several cases” require urgent specialized care outside Madaya, and elsewhere that “dozens of individuals” needed such help.

One teenage boy passed away before the eyes of a UNICEF official.

While 10 people were evacuated in the last days, approvals for the evacuation of others [remain] pending,” it said.

Local residents and rescue workers help a migrant woman after a boat carrying migrants sank off the island of Rhodes in southeastern Greece on April 20, 2015.

Local residents and rescue workers help a migrant woman after a boat carrying migrants sank off the island of Rhodes in southeastern Greece on April 20, 2015.

Representatives of two Syrian relief organizations told (Foreign Policy) that the OCHA bulletin drastically underestimated the number of people in need of urgent case, saying that as many as 400 people need to be evacuated.

Hezbollah has tightened the siege still more in recent days, forcing dozens of families on the road to Zabadani to leave their homes for Madaya, according to two NGOs and a town resident.

But the U.N. hasn’t issued a bulletin on the situation in the town since Jan. 17.

Meanwhile, criticism of the U.N.’s handling of sieges hasn’t only been over Madaya.

Five Syrian relief organizations charged that the U.N. had set an “unacceptable precedent” in negotiating the wording of the report with the Syrian government.

  • Removing all references to besieged areas “downplays the severity of the violations” of international law by the Assad regime, and
  • removing the references to mine clearing was an implicit validation of the Syrian government’s position that mine removal constitutes military action, they said in a letter sent on Dec. 30.
Syrian child peeps through a tent at Ain al-Helweh refugee camp. (Photo: UNICEF)

Syrian child peeps through a tent at Ain al-Helweh refugee camp. (Photo: UNICEF)

Some aid workers believe that the U.N.’s willingness to toe the Syrian government’s line is due to the international body’s fear of being booted out of Damascus.

In a separate letter on Jan. 13, 112 relief workers from government-besieged areas complained bitterly that staff in the U.N.’s Damascus office, relief workers and civil society activists wrote:

  • are either too close to the regime or too scared of having their visas revoked by the same powers that are besieging us.
  • Why are you silencing our suffering? As if refusing to break the sieges were not enough, it now seems the UN is even afraid of uttering the words,

Both letters were addressed to Stephen O’Brien, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, who replied in a Jan. 17 letter to “members of Syrian civil society” that appeared to respond to both complaints.

He asserted that the U.N. was not,

  • too close to any party” and was not “acting in such a way to encourage the use of siege tactics.

He said the U.N. had,

  • repeatedly and unequivocally called for an end to siege as a weapon of war against civilians and for full, unhindered, unconditional and sustained access to all people in need in besieged and hard-to-reach areas in Syria.”

He also said he was,

  • angry and frustrated about the situation in besieged areas in Syria and the terrifying toll it is having on its children, women and men.
Kevin Kennedy, UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti

Kevin Kennedy, UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti

There is no suggestion, however, that U.N. officials will review their standing policy of negotiating in secret for approval to deliver food and medicine, a mission that the U.N. Security Council has unanimously endorsed.

Kevin Kennedy, the U.N.’s regional coordinator for the Syria crisis, pushed back more vigorously earlier this month in Gaziantep, Turkey, during encounters with international and independent Syrian relief agencies.

In those discussions, he dismissed the importance of the Humanitarian Response Plan, according to two attendees.

  • He said the document is meaningless, and it will be put back on the shelf,” said a Syrian relief staffer who attended one of the meetings.

While the U.N. describes the Humanitarian Response Plan as,

  • the collective vision of the international humanitarian community and its national partners for responding to the assessed humanitarian needs in Syria,”

Kennedy downplayed its influence at the Gazientep meeting.

  • He said donors don’t care about this document,” the relief staffer said.
  • It was a very bad meeting, with irritating answers,” said a second aid agency official, who is a representative of an independent Syrian organization. “There is no willingness to make any change.

The biggest single donor to the U.N.’s $3.2 billion program, the United States, also played down the dispute.

The U.S. Agency for International Development, in an email to (Foreign Policy), called the Humanitarian Response Plan

  • an operational plan, not an advocacy or fundraising document.

But some aid organizations are not willing to dismiss it so quickly.

The document, in the words of one senior official of a U.S. relief organization,

  • sets the direction and the tone” for the international response to the crisis.

Some fear the language in official documents can also take on a life of its own – with the Assad regime using it for its own purposes – regardless of how U.N. officials see it.

  • If it’s important, don’t let the government of Syria do whatever it wants to with it,” said the second aid official.

Foreign Policy: How the U.N. Let Assad Edit the Truth of Syria’s War

🔝

Click Picture for a Popular Article

  • Refugee-girl-cries-as-her-Central-American-shanty-town-is-destroyed-0714-by-Spencer-Platt
  • People searched for survivors in the rubble of houses destroyed by an airstrike in Sana, Yemen, on June 12. (Photo: Mohamed Al-Sayaghi/Reuters) alistairreignblog.com
  • A question I have been asked many times since I began covering the humanitarian crisis in Yemen; who is taking care of the war orphans in Yemen? It appears the world has forgotten them, perhaps because they are not considered refugee orphans, nobody is paying attention to the gross crimes against these little ones - committed at the hands of an invading regime - Saudi Arabia.. children isleep nside a pitt in the ground, it is now normal for adults to put children to sleep in a large hole to ptotect child from snipers andcluster bombs that spray shrapnel Yemen.
  • The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today announced that the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) will receive $20 million – under the Advanced Manufacturing Fund (AMF) – to establish and operate the Centre for Advanced Therapeutic Cell Technologies. January 13, 2006. (Photo: Adam Scotti). AlistairReignBlog.com
  • A malnourished child lies on a weighing machine at a therapeutic feeding Centre at Al Sabyeen hospital in Sana’a. (Reuters)
  • A U.S. Marine Corps recruit with Company F, 2d Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, provides security aboard Edson Range, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 25, 2016. The recruit simulated providing security while the rest of the recruits carried ammo cans to their fighting holes to simulate combat preparation. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps by Lance Cpl. Erick J. ClarosVillalta).
  • Souhayla, a 16-year-old girl who escaped the Islamic State after three years of captivity, at her uncle’s home in Shariya Camp, Iraq. Credit Alex Potter for The New York Times
  • Faces of the women who had their lives cut short by Pickton.
  • Women to be placed on Canadian bank notes. Merna Forster helps prove that the adage is true, one voice can raise the voices of many. Forster is from British Columbia's provincial capital, Victoria, and her petition has brought about recognition to an overlooked wrong that required "righting" - and that she did with an impressive 73,402 signatures.
  • Geopolitics: Today's Yemen In One Map. Yemeni Civil War: The Territorial Control as of March 1st, 2016. In March, the Yemen’s embattled president Hadi fled Yemen by sea and arrives in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, as Saudi Arabia and its allies launch military operations in Yemen to defend Hadi’s government.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes Syrian refugees to Canada late Thursday night at Pearson International airport
  • UNICEF estimates nearly 400 children have been killed and over 600 injured in the past four months in the country, the poorest in the Middle East. 13 Yemeni teaching staff and four children were killed by a Saudi air strike on August 20. Two days before, coalition bombing in the Amran province took the lives of 17 civilians, injuring 20 more. UNICEF condemned what it called the “senseless bloodshed.” A Red Cross spokeswoman said the violence in Ta’iz, in southern Yemen, in just one day on August 21 left 80 people dead.
  • People light candles at the scene of a massive car bomb attack in Karada, a busy shopping district where people were shopping for the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holiday, in the center of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, July 3, 2016. More than 100 people died Sunday in a car bombing that the Islamic extremist militia group said it carried out, an official of the Iraqi Interior Ministry said.

Click Picture for a Popular Cartoon

  • Who is PM Stephen Harper
  • Donald Trump and a Cheshire cat have the same smug smile.
  • In episode two he addresses the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the humanitarian catastrophe in the impoverished Republic of Yemen. Minhaj warns America to reconsider their attitude toward Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  • Take Our Poll: Come on in and decide for yourself! Who worked the puffy white shirt best?
  • I hate Monday
  • Satire: USA Denies Whites Can Be Terrorist
  • Sesame Street - Grouch Apprentice with Donald Grump
  • Britney Spears Looking Hot in black leather in Toxic music video. who was sexiest? Britney in Toxic or Taylor Swift in Bad Blood
  • Way-back Machine: Who Vogue'd It Best? Take our poll at Alistair Reign News Blog: AlistairReignBlog.com

Start a Conversation or Write a Caption This joke.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.