An illegal slaughter is taking place in Eastern Ghouta as result of one of the most brutal bombardments of the Syrian conflict. In the past three days alone, the death toll has reached more than 300, and continues to climb. The numbers of children among the dead are hard to confirm, and numbers creep up by the hour, but make no mistake – children are paying the ultimate price in this brutal war. The videos spreading around social media and news websites of grieving parents and bleeding children are a stark reminder that this situation, as described by the UN, is a massacre.
These bombardments are claiming the lives of hundreds of civilians and children. There are a range of international laws which govern the ‘rules of war’ and humanitarian intervention – that seek to prevent indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas, and the deliberate targeting of schools and hospitals. When States break these laws, they should be held to account for those actions. Yet as the UN warns the situation is spiralling out of control, the perpetrators are safe in the knowledge that there will be no repercussions for these heinous crimes against humanity.
The international community is setting a precedent of inaction that risks allowing further violations against children to go unpunished
This not only represents a betrayal of Syrian children who have been caught up in a conflict they did nothing to cause. In failing to penalise the war crimes in Syria, the international community is also setting a precedent of inaction that risks allowing further violations against children to go unpunished – in conflicts and crises in many different countries. Through failing to act in Eastern Ghouta, the international community sends a clear message to war criminals all over the world – you can deliberately murder children, and no-one will stop you.
As the Syrian conflict enters its eighth year, having already claimed the lives of an estimated 500,000 people, the international community must not only redouble its efforts to achieve an immediate ceasefire and guarantee humanitarian access to those under siege in Eastern Ghouta; it must also demonstrate that there will be consequences for war crimes – by all parties guilty of committing them in Syria. Without this, ultimately more children will suffer the brutality of illegal warfare, not just in the coming days in Syria, but in the coming years all around the world.