U.S. Congressman McGovern on Syria Humanitarian Crisis
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), a senior House Democrat and leading voice in Congress on human rights, released the following statement on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria.
"Every day we hear about new horrors as the massacre in Syria continues. At this moment, somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 people remain in Aleppo waiting to be evacuated to safety. Thanks to the evacuation operation that was negotiated this week, some 8,000 people were able to leave Aleppo in recent days.
"But it appears that the operation has broken down. While we do not know the details, there are reports that a convoy of 1,000 evacuees was stopped by pro-Syrian government militiamen, who shot several passengers, execution-style, before sending the rest back. There are also reports of the failure of a separate operation to evacuate civilians from two Shiite villages in nearby Idib Province that have long been surrounded by rebel forces.
"Continuing attacks against civilians in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria – against women, children, humanitarian workers and medical personnel – are inexcusable, a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, and a failure of the most basic tenets of human decency.
"This is not a civil war; this is a war on civilians. Nothing has demonstrated the scale of the slaughter more than what has happened and is happening in Aleppo. Most of the carnage is being carried out by the Syrian regime, which is massacring its own population, aided and abetted by Russia and Iranian militias.
"To bring this slaughter to an end, there must be an immediate, verifiable, durable cessation of hostilities and attacks by all combatants. Safe passage out of besieged areas must be secured for all those who have been trapped inside, and full access must be restored for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. This is what decency requires.
"Regrettably, we are not dealing with a regime that has any sense of decency. We need to remember that the Syrian uprising began as a peaceful movement seeking social justice and democratic reform. The Assad regime transformed this peaceful protest into a crisis and then a brutal civil war by arresting, torturing and murdering opponents en masse and pursuing a strategy of annihilation against its own people not seen since Bosnia and Rwanda.
"While I strongly support Secretary Kerry's persistent efforts to use diplomatic channels and try to get the belligerents back to the negotiating table -- because in the end, the only way to end the horrific war in Syria is through a political settlement -- I have little confidence that his Russian counterparts are negotiating in good faith. I fear they are either stalling for time to allow Assad to carry out his murderous campaign, or they have no genuine ability to influence the Syrian regime and secure a humanitarian evacuation.
"I will continue to support humanitarian assistance for Syria and the surrounding region. The United States has already provided more than $6 billion in humanitarian aid, and there is no doubt that much more will be needed.
"But the incapacity of the international community, including the United States, to protect or save the civilian population of Aleppo is a failure of the greatest magnitude. I believe it will haunt us all for years to come. It represents not only the erosion of international humanitarian law and commitment, but a lack of political will and a lack of moral courage.
"So, I call on all decent people around the world to demand accountability for the Syrian and Russian officials who are responsible for the horrific atrocities that have been committed against the Syrian people. Each and every official who has ordered or committed these crimes should be sanctioned; efforts to document the atrocities should be supported; and people everywhere should condemn and shame the Russian and Syrian regimes for what they have done.
"In January, when the U.S. Congress reconvenes, we should debate what more we can do to help end this war, support its victims, and return to them some semblance of their lives. Every day more innocent lives are lost. The time for action to end this conflict is now."