Syrian government co-opting aid to serve loyalists, says Human Rights Watch
The Syrian government is co-opting humanitarian aid and reconstruction assistance, Human Rights Watch said last Friday, urging donors and investors to ensure that funding is going to the right place.
The New-York based rights group said it found that the Syrian government has set up a policy and legal framework that "allows it to divert aid and reconstruction resources to fund its atrocities, punish those perceived as opponents and benefit those loyal to it."
Over the past year, the war – which began with anti-government protests in 2011 before turning into a multi-sided conflict – has wound down after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, supported by their Russian allies, regained control of most territories from Western-backed rebels and Islamist militants.
These developments on the ground have prompted calls from some sides for reconstruction to begin.
The future is uncertain for millions who have been displaced inside the country or fled Syria. More than 11.7 million people are in need of help. A donor conference in March saw pledges up to 7 billion dollars for Syrians afflicted by the eight-year conflict.
"Without an attempt to reform the system in which they are operating, aid agencies and investors are risking effectively financing the machinery of repression in Syria," said Lama Fakih, HRW's acting Middle East director.
HRW published a 91-page report, which it said was based on 33 interviews with aid workers, donors, experts and beneficiaries. The group said the Syrian government has prevented aid groups from fully addressing human rights concerns through their operations. (dpa)