Saturday, 3 August 2019

Simon Tisdall - Don’t call them Syria’s child casualties. This is the slaughter of the innocents

Murdered children are no longer news. International media coverage of the war in Afghanistan, where child deaths reached an all-time high last year, is sporadic at best. In Yemen it is estimated that at least 85,000 under-fives have died of starvation since 2015, a figure that numbs the mind. In Syria, especially, it is hard to keep count because children are being killed almost every day – and who is really counting?

Harrowing images briefly capture public attention. One of the more recent showed five-year-old Riham struggling amid the rubble of her bombed home in Ariha, in Syria’s north-western Idlib province, to save her baby sister, Tuqa. Riham died later in hospital along with her mother and another sister. Thanks to her efforts, and White Helmet rescuers, Tuqa survived.

But the following day, at least another 10 civilians, including three children, were killed in air raids on villages and towns in rebel-held areas of Idlib, Aleppo and Hama. According to Save the Children, more children have been killed in the past month than in the whole of 2018. Monitors say there have been 800 deaths since the Syrian regime’s Russian-backed offensive in Idlib began in April, 200 of them children. Most of these murders were not captured on video.

There are more comfortable ways to describe child deaths. The word “casualty” suggests the killings might even be accidental. But murder is what it is, and what it should be called. These are war crimes and crimes against humanity, ultimately carried out at the behest of two leaders – Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Russia’s Vladimir Putin – who must one day face justice, or else international law is meaningless. “Intentional attacks against civilians are war crimes, and those who have ordered them or carried them out are criminally responsible for their actions,” Michelle Bachelet, the UN’s human rights chief, declared last week. Earlier in Syria’s eight-year war, she said, the world had shown considerable concern. “Now, airstrikes kill and maim significant numbers of civilians several times a week and the response seems to be a collective shrug.”.. read more: