GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations said on Tuesday it had reports that Syrian government troops and an allied Iraqi militia had deliberately shot dead scores of men, women and children in eastern Aleppo, and warned the same “slaughter” could happen elsewhere.
The U.N. human rights office cited reports that at least 82 people had been killed on the streets while fleeing or in their homes in four different neighbourhoods in the last few days.
“The crushing of Aleppo, the immeasurably terrifying toll on its people, the bloodshed, the wanton slaughter of men, women and children, the destruction – and we are nowhere near the end of this cruel conflict,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in a statement.
The Syrian army and its allies have taken full control of all Aleppo districts abandoned by rebels during their retreat in the city, a Syrian military source said on Tuesday.
Zeid said Syria must allow monitoring of its treatment of people fleeing eastern Aleppo, including those detained.
“What is happening with Aleppo could repeat itself in Douma, in Raqqa, in Idlib. We cannot let this continue,” he said, referring to other rebel-held towns.
Earlier, his spokesman Rupert Colville said the U.N. feared retribution against thousands of civilians believed to be holed up in a “hellish corner” of less than a square kilometre of opposition-held territory. Its capture was imminent, he said.
“In all, as of yesterday (Monday) evening we have received reports of pro-government forces killing least 82 civilians, including 11 women and 13 children, in four different neighbourhoods – Bustan al-Qasr, al-Fardous, Al-Kalasah and al-Saliheen,” Colville told a news briefing.
He named the Iraqi armed group Harakat al-Nujaba as reportedly involved in the killings.
“The reports we had are of people being shot in the street trying to flee and shot in their homes,” Colville said, adding that the U.N. had the names of the 82.
“There could be many more,” he said.
DEMANDS FOR MONITORING
“The only way to alleviate the deep foreboding and suspicion that massive crimes may be under way both within Aleppo, and in relation to some of those who fled or were captured, whether fighters or civilians, is for there to be monitoring by external bodies, such as the U.N.,” Colville said.
France on Tuesday called on the United Nations to use all its mechanisms to determine what was happening in Aleppo, warning Russia that it risked being complicit in acts of “vengeance and terror”.
Screening by Syrian government forces of people leaving the city must itself be screened, Colville said.
“It needs international eyes on the situation if the fears of the worst kinds of things happening – summary executions, torture, etc – are to be allayed,” he later told reporters.
Colville blamed world powers for failing to refer atrocities to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.
“The failure of the Security Council to at least involve the International Criminal Court and have some kind of judicial process has been absolutely disastrous. Because the people behind these kind of acts think they have total impunity to do what they want.”
Jens Laerke, U.N. humanitarian spokesman, said that it looked like “a complete meltdown of humanity in Aleppo”.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles; editing by Andrew Roche)