New Zealand’s shared guilt for failing Aleppo


The photos and video are horrendous. The conditions on the ground unimaginable to most. In buildings pock marked with shell holes, going into the Syrian winter with no electricity, water or sewerage people cower in fear from a brutal civil war. It is a war that has brought out the worst of international geopolitics with east and west using the misery of millions of innocents to advance questionable agendas about international power and prestige.

All nations must share some responsibility for the failure of the international system of law in protecting Aleppo from military aggression and war crimes. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have compiled credible evidence of chlorine gas being used by combatants in Aleppo. Observers have reported frequent and often indiscriminate targetting of civilian facilities such as hospitals or deliberately letting ordnance land on residential areas. Russia, the Bashar al-Assad Government and Iran must bear responsibility for enabling these incidents to occur.

New Zealand is not exempt from a portion of the responsibility for the failure of international law with regards to Syria. It is not exempt from the moral responsibility to enable unfettered humanitarian relief into the country and many will agree, a country that has in the past had a great record of daring to speak up when nobody else had the gonads to do so, seems to have lost its willpower. We might be in the middle of a change of ministerial portfolio’s in the Government, but it is true that Minister for Foreign Affairs Murray McCully could have used his leverage among international players to get the violations of the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war to stop.

I am not asking – though I would certainly support it – that New Zealand take more Syrian refugees. I am asking for an immediate, indefinite ceasefire to enable the innocents trapped there to get out; doctors and nurses to provide immediate medical relief. If you wish to donate to the Syria appeal run by the Red Cross go here. If you want to donate to the Syria appeal run by Oxfam go here.

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