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Syria Cease-Fire Must Take Effect Immediately, U.N. Chief Warns

Speaking immediately after the secretary general, Mr. al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, spread responsibility beyond the powers fighting there. With six months remaining in his term and no intention of extending it, he apparently felt free to be blunt.

“Second to the criminally responsible — those who kill and maim — the responsibility for the continuation of so much pain lies with the five permanent members of the Security Council,” he told an audience that included several heads of state and dozens of foreign ministers.

Alongside eastern Ghouta, he said Burundi the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar and Yemen had become “some of the most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times” because governments had failed to heed warnings and to prevent the rising horrors.

The Security Council’s five permanent members should surrender their “pernicious use of the veto,” he said, and accept an initiative from France, one of the five, that would prevent its use where a mass atrocity has occurred.

Britain, a permanent member, and 115 countries have expressed support for that proposal. “It is time, for the love of mercy, that China, Russia and the United States join them,” Mr. al-Hussein said.

On Monday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia ordered a daily humanitarian truce in eastern Ghouta that would start on Tuesday, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. There was no sign that the cease-fire had taken hold, and it was not clear what effect the Russian announcement might have given the numerous players in the conflict — most notably those supporting the Syrian government, and Iranian-backed forces.

The timing of the humanitarian pause, about 72 hours after the resolution passed, would coincide with when Russia had originally proposed that the cease-fire start. The pause would run for five hours a day, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and there would be no outright ban on attacks during the rest of the day, in line with the cease-fire loophole allowing attacks on fighters identified as terrorists.

The pause would be accompanied by the creation of a “humanitarian corridor” so that civilians could leave, although the location of the corridor was not announced.

The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, which is based in Paris, said that within 24 hours of the resolution’s approval, two more hospitals in eastern Ghouta had been hit by airstrikes. It added that there were 31 attacks on 26 medical facilities in the week that ended on Sunday. At least 541 people were killed and thousands wounded in that time it said.

“I am ashamed of the U.N. Security Council,” Ziad Alissa, the organization’s president, said in a statement. “The most powerful nations in the world are unable to enforce the most basic standards of human rights. Failure to enforce these resolutions calls into question the very reason for this process. They are disconnected from reality.”

Syria’s director of forensic medicine, Dr. Zaher Hajo, told Syrian news outlets that 36 people had been killed by rebel mortar shelling in Damascus and government-held suburbs “in the past few days,” among them women and children, and that 200 had been wounded.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported that mortar shells fired by the rebels had fallen on facilities belonging to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent near Harasta, a government-held suburb north of Damascus.

Source: NYT > World

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