Switzerland strongly condemns attack on humanitarian convoy in Syria and calls on all parties to strictly comply with international humanitarian law

Press release, 20.09.2016

La Suisse Switzerland strongly condemns the 19 September 2016 attack on a humanitarian convoy transporting urgent humanitarian aid in the province of Aleppo, Syria. The attack resulted in approximately 20 deaths.

Switzerland is seriously concerned about the resurgence of fighting in Syria, in clear violation of the cessation of hostilities that took effect one week ago. Among those killed in the attack was the head of the local branch of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, which, since the start of the conflict, has already lost more than 50 staff actively engaged in humanitarian work. Switzerland offers its condolences to the families of the victims and calls on all parties involved in the conflict to strictly comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, including principles on the conduct of hostilities, to protect civilians and to authorise and facilitate the immediate and unhindered transport of humanitarian aid.

In the wake of the attack, the United Nations has decided to suspend its humanitarian convoys in Syria. Generally speaking, the increase in and systematic nature of attacks against humanitarian and medical missions suggest a deliberate strategy on the part of many parties involved in armed conflicts. Should it be established that such attacks were carried out deliberately, then Switzerland reiterates that they would constitute war crimes. These attacks seriously hinder the urgent humanitarian and medical action civilians need, especially in hard-to-reach areas. Switzerland reiterates that the parties involved in the conflict are obliged to take the measures required under international humanitarian law to guarantee protection for civilians and non-combatants, and to reduce the impact of conflicts on civilians.

Switzerland supports any independent, effective and in-depth investigation with a view to preventing the recurrence of such tragedies, bolstering preventive measures, ensuring accountability and addressing the victims' grievances.

Switzerland's engagement with regard to the conflict in Syria is based on three pillars: it is contributing to efforts to find a political solution to the armed conflict, is providing humanitarian assistance to affected groups of people, and is working to ensure compliance with international law, including the fight against impunity. Switzerland is working closely together with UN, international and local partners to implement these three priorities. It also hopes that the high-level meetings currently being held on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York will generate the momentum needed to further the intra-Syrian peace process under the aegis of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, Staffan de Mistura.

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Federal Department of Foreign Affairs