The human rights council opened a special session on Syria’s Aleppo on Friday, with rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein demanding action against “crimes of historic proportions” and Britain seeking to shame Russia for its deadly air strikes on the northern Syrian city.
The session, called by Britain, is seeking a resolution condemning gross abuses especially in Aleppo’s rebel-held east where an estimated 250,000 civilians are besieged by a brutal regime offensive backed by Russia.
“The siege and bombardment of eastern Aleppo, are not simply tragedies; they also constitute crimes of historic proportions,” Zeid said.
Calling Syria’s more than five-year civil war “a proxy conflict”, he urged parties to the fighting to set aside “global gamesmanship”.
The head of the United Nations’ commission of inquiry for Syria, Paulo Pinheiro, reiterated a call for the International Criminal Court to probe violations in the war-ravaged country.
He said that the panel would continue to document war crimes in Aleppo and appealed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad to provide information on violations.
While rights council resolutions are non-binding, regime ally Russia is expected to push back against any draft strongly condemning the Assad regime.
“Russia, you are making the situation worse, not solving it,” Tobias Ellwood, the British government minister for Africa and the Middle East said in his speech to the Geneva forum.
“This is shameful and it is not the action or leadership that we expect from a P5 nation,” he said, referring to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
The session, also supported by France, Germany and the United States as well as Assad rival Turkey, is aiming to adopt a resolution later Friday.
Meanwhile, the Syrian regime opened a new corridor for rebels and civilians who want to leave the besieged eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo, a move that’s part of a Russia-announced pause in the fighting and which the rebels in the city have already dismissed.
Residents in eastern Aleppo have said many won’t go since there are no guarantees that the evacuees won’t be arrested by regime forces.
Even as the corridor opened along Aleppo’s main artery to the north, the Castello Road, intense clashes and shelling erupted in the Jobar neighborhood in the capital of Damascus, activists and residents said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there were casualties both among the rebels and the regime forces.
The pause in Aleppo fighting was announced by Russia to allow for the evacuation of civilians and fighters, as well as the wounded. Rebels have rejected the offer, saying it isn’t serious.
Before the pause, Aleppo’s besieged districts were subjected to relentless Syrian and Russian airstrikes for weeks.