Today UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that some 200 families are trapped in a shrinking area of Syria controlled by Islamic State, whose forces are stopping many from fleeing. The UN High Commissioner called for a families’ safe passage.
It is estimated that there are a few hundred ISIS fighters and about 2,000 civilians under siege in the village of Baghouz.
Many of the families continue to be subjected to intensified air and ground-based strikes by the U.S.-led Coalition forces and their SDF allies on the ground, the UN High Commissioner said in a statement.
“We understand that ISIL appears to be preventing some of them if not all of them from leaving. So that’s potentially a war crime on the part of ISIL,” UN High Commissioner spokesperson Rupert Colville told a news briefing.
The SDF attacking Islamic State have an obligation under international law to take all precautions to protect civilians who are mixed in with the foreign fighters, he said.
Bachelet also expressed concern for some 20,000 people who fled the ISIL-controlled areas in eastern Deir al-Zor governorate in recent weeks. They are being held in makeshift camps run by the Kurdish armed groups, including SDF, who are reported to be preventing them from leaving the camps.
“Particular care needs to be taken with the civilians and if possible they should be treated humanely, and allowed to leave the camps. They shouldn’t be held in detention unless they are suspected of committing a particular crime,” the UN High Commissioner spokesperson mentioned.