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Civilian Populations Must Remain Inviolate

People run on debris at a site hit by what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo, December 18, 2013.

The United States strongly condemns attacks on Syria’s civilians by the Assad regime and extremist groups during the ongoing conflict.

The United States strongly condemns attacks on Syria’s civilians by the Assad regime and extremist groups during the ongoing conflict.

Civilian Populations Must Remain Inviolate
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From the very beginning of the uprising, which began in early 2011, troops loyal to the government of Bashar al-Assad have targeted unarmed civilians. They launched large-scale military operations against civilian populations, viciously attacking them with tanks, heavy artillery and airplanes. And as some of the citizens took up arms to fight back, the Syrian army continued to intensify its attacks, making no distinction between armed opposition fighters and innocent civilians caught in the conflict.

Along the way, militias loyal to the government have been known to massacre non-combatants living in opposition-controlled territory. Such was the case of the Houla massacre, in which 104 people died, 83 of them women and children.

At the same time, extremist rebel fighters have tortured and killed known or perceived civilian collaborators and executed raids on civilian installations.

Both the Assad regime and some extremist groups have used force to isolate civilian towns and neighborhoods, not allowing the inhabitants to leave, while preventing entry to aid and health care workers, along with desperately needed food and relief supplies.

“Direct attacks on civilians not taking part in hostilities breach the most basic principles of dignity and freedom from oppression that have characterized the Syrian people’s struggle,” said Deputy State Department Spokesperson, Marie Harf.

“We have long said that those responsible for perpetrating atrocities in Syria – especially the latest vicious violence against innocent civilians – must be held accountable.”

“Toward this end, we continue to work with Syrian activists and civil society to develop a sound understanding of different transitional justice tools and discuss future transitional justice processes, such as a tribunal. We are also supporting international and Syrian documentation efforts, including efforts to train Syrian investigators.

“These efforts are critical in building an evidence base that will contribute to ensuring the justice and accountability that the Syrian people, especially victims, deserve.

“We remain committed to help ensure those responsible for these atrocities are held accountable.”